Skip to main content

Full text of "Naught For Your Comfort"

See other formats

968 H88n 

Huddle st on $3 * 7 5 
Naught for your comfort, 



SEP 12 


Naught for Your 


Doubleday & Company, Inc. 

Garden City, New York 


Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 56-8495 

Copyright 1956 by Ernest Urban Trevor Huddleston 

All Rights Reserved 

Printed in the United States at 

The Country Life Press, Garden City, N.Y. 

First Edition 


and the Africa he represents 

Ms book is dedicated 
with deep gratitude and love in Christ 


THIS BOOK has been written in the odd hours of an exceed 
ingly busy year. Perhaps that fact alone may give it value, 
for it has certainly come red hot out of the crucible which 
is South Africa today. 

Many books about the Union of South Africa have ap 
peared of recent months, and many more yet to come, for 
it is a country of inexhaustible fascination and interest. 
This book can claim only to throw light upon one small 
corner of the country, and it springs from a personal ex 
perience which is limited and confessedly partial. 

Yet I have been a South African citizen: and I freely 
chose my citizenship. I wished to live and die a South 
African citizen, though I would have preferred with Alan 
Paton, to be called a citizen of Africa: an African, in fact. 
I am also a Religious, that is to say, a member of a monastic 
Community of the Anglican Church. In our Rule we are 
bidden "to have all things common" and not to use the 
pronouns *T* and "Mine." I must ask the Community's for 
giveness for doing so in this book. But I have done so for 
two reasons: first, for the obvious one of literary style; sec 
ondly, because the opinions expressed here are entirely my 
own responsibility. They do not in any way reflect the com 
mon mind of the Community, though I believe many of 
my brethren are in substantial agreement with them. Yet 
without the love and support of the Community I should 


never have had the joy and splendour of these twelve years 
in South Africa, nor the strength to make any kind of use 
of them. 

I must thank especially those people who have made 

this book possible: Miss Mary Whitnall and Mrs. R 

L for their labours in typing, and Robin Denniston 

of William Collins for his patience, pertinacity and en 
couragement. I would also thank Alan Paton and his wife 
for a week of kindness and hospitality which I shall always 
remember and which made the completion of this book a 

Finally, I would thank Anthony Sampson and Harry 
Bloom for giving me the nerve to write it at all 

September 1955 



I. Out of Africa 13 

II. The Daylight and the Dark 21 

III. Till There Be No Place 37 

IV. The Christian Dilemma 57 
V. TheTsotai 79 

VI. Shanty Town 99 

VIL Sophiatown 117 

VIII. Who Goes There? *37 

IX. Education for Servitude 157 

X. Out, Damned Spot 177 

XL Comfort, Use and Protection 193 

XII. Joy and Woe 209 

XIII. And Have Not Charity 227 

Epilogue 347 



1 tell you naught for your comfort, 
Yea, naught for your desire, 
Save that the sky grows darker yet 
And the sea rises higher. 


Ballad of the White Horse 

I. Out of Africa 

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi 


IT is told of Smuts that when he said farewell to any of 
his friends or distinguished visitors leaving South Africa 
he quoted in that high-pitched voice of his the lines of De 
la Mare: 

Look thy last on all things lovely 
Every hour. 

I have no doubt that to Smuts the loveliness of South 
Africa was its natural beauty and grandeur; its wild flowers 
and grasses, about which he knew so much; the great 
emptiness of its skies above the silence of the veldt. 

But, since I knew of my recall to England by the Com 
munity to which I belong, those words have haunted me; 
and this book, written from the heart of the Africa I love, 
would be incomplete if I did not somehow set it in the 
context of this sudden, unwanted, but inevitable depar 
ture: "Partir, c 9 est mourir un peu" . . . and I am in the 
process of dying; in the process, "every hour." The thing 
about such a death, the quality of it, is to heighten the 
loveliness of what one is leaving behind. Without senti 
mentality or any foolish regrets it is most necessary to try 
to evaluate one's feelings, to try to discover and to relate 



that strange but deeply real truth which so many have 
experienced-the witchery of Africa: the way it lays its 
hold upon your heart and will not let you go. There are 
many exiles from Africa whose heart is still there and al 
ways will be. Why should it be so? I shall soon be one of 
them, so I must know the answer. 

When fifteen years ago I stood before the High Altar 
in our great and beautiful conventual church at Mirfield 
to make my vows, I knew what I was doing. I knew 
amongst other things that the vow of obedience, willingly 
and freely taken, would inevitably involve not the sur 
render of freedom (as is so often supposed) but the sur 
render of self-will. I knew that it would involve, someday, 
somewhere, the taking up or the laying down of a task 
entrusted to me by the Community, a task to be done not 
of myself alone, and therefore not dependent upon my own 
desires or wishes, I knew what I was doing. I was glad 
to do it. I am still glad, and thankful, to have done it. 
For it is that vow of obedience which alone gives a man 
the strength, when he most needs it, to die by parting from 
what he loves. Nothing else could have torn me away from 
Africa at this moment. And no other motive than a super 
natural one could be sufficient or strong enough to make 
sense of such a parting. Indeed, I should feel I had failed 
lamentably in all that I have tried to do if the parting were 
without tears. For it would mean that the work had been 
without love. So I have no complaints, no regrets (except 
for my failures and my sins), only a great thankfulness 
for the twelve years that are over and for the marvellous 
enrichment they have meant in my life* 

"Look thy last on all things lovely . . /" Most of my 
time in South Africa has been spent in Johannesburg and 
half of it in one of the slums of that city of gold. No one, 



I think, could call Johannesburg a lovely place. It is too 
stark and too uncompromising, too lacking in any softness 
of light and shade, too overwhelmingly and blatantly the 
centre of the Witwatersrand to have much loveliness. But 
I have seen momentarily the golden sand of the mine 
dumps crossed by grey and purple shadows in the eve 
ning, transformed into a real beauty a thing impossible to 
the slag heaps of industrial England. And I have come to 
love the rolling country of the high veldt round the city, 
stretching away to the Magaliesberg Mountains and giv 
ing to Johannesburg a setting which belongs to few cities 
in the world. Of the beauty of its rich homes and gardens 
I will not write, for I have never been able to see that 
beauty without remembering the corrugated-iron shacks 
and the muddy yards where our African people live. In 
deed, I am certain that no natural beauty could ever so 
lay hold on my heart as to make me weep for leaving it. 
Others may be created differently; I have never been able 
to feel that nostalgia for places, however lovely. And, after 
all, Africa is a cruel place rather than a beautiful one. She 
lives by extremes. Her storms and her sunshine are both 
fierce. Life itself is precarious and has to find a foothold 
by struggling against that barren rock, those scorching 
winds, that arid, sandy soil. 

Johannesburg itself, which is the place I know and love 
best, would be by most people regarded as lying outside 
the real Africa: a cosmopolitan, crowded city much like 
those smaller cities of America, new and brash and 
hard. . . . 

"Look thy last on all things lovely . . ." What does it 
mean, then, this real agony of parting? Why does it cost 
so much? What I am hoping to say in this book will give 
the answer, if I am at all capable of giving it. 



Spiritual writers spend quite a lot of time talking about 
"detachment/' The lives of the saints are full of instances of 
this virtue, which indeed is a vitally necessary one in the 
Christian life. But generally the impression that such 
writers give is of a negative and cold quality: a refusal 
to allow oneself to become "attached" for fear that in some 
way such attachment would mean a base disloyalty to 
Christ. No doubt there are souls who for their own pro 
tection must eschew all human affection if they are to 
cleave to God in purity of heart. I am not one of them. 
For me, detachment is only real if it involves loving; lov 
ing to the fullest extent of one's nature but recognising 
at the same time that such love is set in the context of a 
supernatural love of God. Then, when the moment of sur 
render, of parting, comes, one has a worth-while offering 
to make: an offering which is the love and affection of all 
the years, for all those one has known; it has some mean 
ing, like the precious ointment poured out on the feet of 
Christ. And it is costly too. 

"All things lovely . . ." Old Miriam from her room in 
Sophiatown writing to say good-bye . . . "We will miss 
that patting hand which reminds us of a certain King who 
had people who did not seem to know the way home. That 
King left his royal seat and came to live as one of them 
for thirty years, and for three years he tried to show them 
the way home. When he was satisfied that they knew the 
way, he left them. . . . May Heaven bless you, and if you 
do not come back to South Africa again we will meet at 
Jesus' feet." 

"All things lovely . ," The hands of a great multitude 
of little children stretched out in trust to grasp my own, 
to tug at the skirts of my cassock. And their eyes* The 
end of an All-African concert in my honour, and Tod 



Matchikiza so excited that his composition has gone well. 
The timid knock at my door and Jonas, whom I thought 
felt nervous of talking frankly to me, "Father, there's a 
great problem I want to speak to you about . . ." And the 
jazz band, putting on their new uniforms for the first time 
. . . And the Congress meeting out in the open square, 
"Mayibuye-Afrika": vitality, life, the Africa of the future 
. . . And so much else. So very much else. 

This is the end of a chapter. And I thank God I have 
had the opportunity of living through it. The least I can 
do is to try to obey His voice from the darkness of the 
years that lie ahead. And I am certain that "all shall be 
well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall 
be welF for the Africa I love, the Africa of my heart's 

There are many different ways in which it would be pos 
sible to assess the situation in South Africa. 

What I will attempt to do is to use certain legislation, 
certain authoritative statements, 1 and certain movements 
to illustrate a single theme. But not in any abstract and 
theoretical way; rather, as they affect the lives of persons, 
as I know them from day-to-day experience, as I feel them 
in my own heart at this moment. What I shall try to avoid 
is that most common and persistent error in all such assess 
mentsthe attempt to be impartial. By this I mean that 
I shall write this book as a partisan, for I believe that Chris 
tians are committed in the field of human relationships to 
a partisan approach* I believe that because God became 
Man, therefore human nature in itself has a dignity and a 
value which is infinite. I believe that this conception nec- 

1 See Appendix. 



essarily carries with it the idea that the state exists for the 
individual, not the individual for the state. Any doctrine 
based on racial or colour prejudice and enforced by the 
state is therefore an affront to human dignity and ipso 
facto an insult to God Himself, It is for this reason that 
I feel bound to oppose not only the policy of the present 
government of the Union of South Africa but the legisla 
tion which flows from this policy. I am not interested, 
therefore, in any by-products of legislation which in them 
selves may appear to be beneficial to the African. I believe 
that a very great deal of harm is done in South Africa by 
people of good will and even better intentions who bend 
over backwards in their efforts to interpret Nationalist 
legislation in a favourable light. It is always possible, I 
suppose, even in the most vicious enactments of the most 
vicious governments to see elements of potential good. But 
Wilberforce would never have succeeded in abolishing 
slavery if he had listened to the arguments of kindhearted 
but wrongheaded slave owners. No advance can be made 
against prejudice and fear unless these things are seen as 
irrational and brought out into the fierce light of day. 
There is no room for compromise or fence-sitting over a 
question such as racial ideology when it so dominates the 
thought of a whole country. South Africans are very fond 
of describing their multi-racial society as unique; as a 
problem which does not confront other nations; as a situa 
tion demanding sympathy and understanding from the 
rest of the world. Equally they are almost pathologically 
sensitive to criticism from outside, whether it is expressed 
by a committee of the United Nations or by Canon Collins, 
Invariably the defence is that none can understand South 
Africa's problems except white South Africans. No one, 
apparently, can understand "the native" except his boss 



or his "missus." And none should dare to bring to the bar 
of world opinion (or of the Christian conscience outside 
the Union) such complicated problems. To do so is to be 
a traitor to one's country, an uitlander who refuses to rec 
ognise its claim to loyaltyin any case, a person whose 
opinions are valueless and can be ignored. 

The truth is that the overwhelming majority of South 
Africans of the "white" group have no conception what 
ever of human relationships except that based on racial 
domination. The only Africans they know, they know as 
servants or as employees. Whilst the centre of the South 
African scene has shifted inevitably to the cities and their 
industrial areas, the vast majority of "Europeans" have no 
knowledge whatever of the urban African and his back 
ground. The greatest tragedy, in one sense, of the present 
situation is the total ignorance of those in responsible posi 
tions of government of the way in which young Africa 
thinks, talks, and lives. At least here, after twelve years of 
the closest possible contact with the urbanised African, I 
can claim an authority to speak at first hand. I would not 
dare to say that I can interpret the position perfectly, still 
less that I can prophesy when and in what form the in 
evitable revolt against present policies will come. That it 
will come I am entirely convinced. That there is no time 
to lose in breaking the present government I am also con 
vinced. And, unlike many whose opinions I greatly respect, 
I believe that to do this the whole weight of world influ 
ence and world opinion should be brought to bear. If this 
is disloyalty to South Africa, then I am disloyal. I prefer 
to believe, however, that Christians are called to a higher 
obedience, a more profound patriotism than that due to a 
de facto government. The South Africa I love, the land 
to which I give all the loyalty that can be demanded, is 



that which is built on a surer and more permanent founda 
tion than white supremacy. It is the land which, at present, 
exists only in the hopes, perhaps only in the dreams, of a 
few: a land whose motto is even now emblazoned on the 
Union coat of arms Ex unitate viresbut whose behav 
iour and attitude are expressed in a real unity of races 
and in a real strength of moral principle. 

II. The Daylight and 
the Dark 

Where the splendour of the daylight grows 
drearier than the dark . . . 

G. K. CHESTERTON, "The Aristocrat" 

IT WAS Holy Saturday in Sophiatown, the busiest day in 
the year for any priest who has charge of a parish as lively 
as that of Christ the King. For in order that Easter and 
the Lord's Resurrection shall be the most glorious and tri 
umphant day in the calendar, there is much to be done in 
preparation. There are many confessions to be heard; there 
is the ceremonial of the New Fire to rehearse; there is the 
church to be made ready. And of course, as always in 
Sophiatown, there is a steady stream of people coming to 
the door to pay their church tickets or to ask one of the 
fathers to come and baptise a sick baby or to complain 
that the water has been cut off by their landlord and the 
drains are blocked. ... So on this Saturday morning I 
was not too pleased when there strode into my office and 
evidently angry the young manager of the one and only 
milk bar in Sophiatown, an ex-serviceman who had begun 
a few months back an experimenta European in an Afri 
can township running an American-style soda fountain. 
"It's Jacob . . ." he began. "Father, I'm damn well going 


to do something about this. It's a bloody shame. ... Fa 
ther, youVe got to help me. . . /' 

On Maundy Thursday night at Jeppe station, Jacob 
Ledwaba had been arrested for being out after the curfew 
and without his pass. On Saturday morning he came home. 
He told his wife he had been kicked in the stomach in 
the cells and that he was in such pain that he couldn't go 
to work. Would she go and tell the boss and explain? It 
was this that brought the manager of the milk bar to my 
office at the mission on Holy Saturday morning. 

It would be easy to dramatise this incident and in 
many recent novels on South Africa such incidents have 
been described. All I want to say is this. Jacob was taken 
to hospital and died of a bladder injury, leaving a widow 
and a month-old baby. We brought a case against the 
police and in evidence produced affidavits concerning the 
nature of the injury from the two doctors who had at 
tended Jacob. We also had the services of an eminent Q,C. 
The verdict (long after Jacob's body had been laid in the 
cemetery, long after any fresh medical evidence could pos 
sibly come to light) was that he had died of congenital 
syphilis. The magistrate added a rider to his verdict to the 
effect that the police had been shamefully misrepresented 
in this case and that there was no evidence whatever in 
culpating them. 

So Jacob died, in the first place because he had forgot 
ten to carry his pass. In the second because, Good Friday 
being a public holiday in South Africa, he had spent 
twenty-four hours in the police cells in Jeppe. 

This thing happened quite a long time ago now, and I 
suppose that if Jacob's son is still alive he is just at the 
beginning of his school days. It will be only a few years 
more till the day when he, too, must carry a pass, I only 


hope and pray he will not be so careless as his father was 
and forget it one evening when he goes to visit his friends. 
It can be very costly to forget your pass. 

Now the impact of such an incident as this upon a priest 
is rather different, I suppose, from its impact upon the or 
dinary South African citizen. For to a priest, Jacob is Jacob 
Ledwaba, husband and head of a family; Jacob Ledwaba, 
member of the congregation at Christ the King; Jacob Led 
waba, whose babe I have baptised, upon whose lips I have 
placed, Sunday by Sunday, the Body of Christ, whose joys 
and sorrows I have known, whose sins by the authority 
committed unto me I have forgiven as he knelt beside me 
of a Saturday evening after evensong in the lovely church. 
To the ordinary South African citizen he is a native boy 
(and he would still be a boy if he lived to seventy) who 
hadn't got a pass and who was probably cheeky to the 
police when they arrested him. A pity he died. But we must 
have control. 

I read again that the Archbishop of Cape Town wrote 
recently in some church magazine: "The extreme com 
placency of the publications of the State Information Of 
fice so far as I have seen them gives the impression that 
the Union of South Africa is a kind of earthly paradise for 
its inhabitants of every group. The accounts given by some 
of the visitors to this country suggest that the Union of 
South Africa is a hell on earth. The facts stated on both 
sides are mainly correct. But . . . the difference lies in the 
way in which the material is selected." 

I wonder if it is really as simple as all that. I believe 
it to be not a matter of the way material is selected so 
much as the way in which one assesses the real meaning 
and purpose of life. On this level, hell is not a bad descrip 
tion of South Africa, nor a very great exaggeration. For, 


as I understand it theologically, the real pain and agony 
(expressed symbolically but very definitely by Christ in 
the Gospels ) of hell is frustration. Its atmosphere is dread. 
Its horror is its eternity. When you are in hell you see the 
good but you can never reach it, you know that you are 
made for God but between yourself and Him "there is a 
great gulf fixed/* It is not a bad description of the ultimate 
meaning of apartheid. And I am not at all sure that it is 
very far from the ideal which the present government of 
South Africa has set itself to actualise. 

At least the frustration and the fear are the most obvious 
characteristics of the present time for the African. And 
there is a sense in which it would seem that they must 
remain so for a very long while. And of these elements of 
fear and frustration the pass laws are a peculiarly power 
ful instrument. 

There is, some twelve miles from the centre of Johannes 
burg but lying very close to its northern suburbs, a place 
called Alexandra Township, It is one of those places which 
figure in Alan Baton's Cry, the Beloved Country, whose 
atmosphere he has evoked so clearly that it would be im 
pertinent for me to try to add to his description. It is, as 
it happens, the only African township of any size which 
lies to the north of the city. The great mass of Orlando, 
Moroka, Jabavu where some quarter of a million Africans 
live spreads westwards and continues to spread. But 
Alexandra Township, with its eighty to ninety thousand 
people, is a unique place. To begin with, it is not within 
the municipal boundary; then, it has a past history which 
has left it with certain freehold rights (a privilege exceed 
ingly rare in the Union) and it is quite desperately over 
crowded. But its residents are part of the labour force of 
Johannesburg. They come in by bus and bicycle every 



morning to work in the homes, in the shops, and in the 
factories of the city. The long queue at the bus rank near 
the station of an evening does not disperse before 7 P.M. 
on any day of the week except Saturday. Without the Alex 
andra "natives" the northern suburbs would have to go 
servantless, and not a few commercial concerns in the city 
would be hard put to it to find labour. Apart from over 
crowding (which is not restricted to Alexandra Town 
ship ) , there has been no major problem at Alexandra since 
the famous bus strike of some ten years ago, when, sooner 
than pay increased fares, the workers walked into the city 
to their work day after day until victory was won. 

Now, however, there is a crisis and one which has 
within it the seeds of a great tragedy. Only, like so many 
other crises in our country, it is unknown to most white 
citizens of Johannesburg and, though known, it is dis 
counted by those in authority. The fact that it affects hu 
man life is of little account, for human life is as cheap as 
human labour if it is black, and as easily replaceable. 

Those whose servants come day by day from Alexandra 
know it simply by name as indeed do those whose serv 
ants come from Sophiatown and Orlando and Pimville. It 
is exceedingly rare for any European housewife to go and 
see the home of her wash-girl or her cook. Such concern 
is not normally included in the kindness which is her boast, 
certainly not included in the knowledge of natives which 
is her constant defence against criticism. 

And so it comes about that in Alexandra an entirely new 
and major social problem has arisen, of which Johannes 
burg is unaware but which affects the lives of everyone 
in Johannesburg directly or indirectly all the time. 

The problem is this. Because of a new regulation con 
cerning the influx .of African labour into the city, no Afri- 



can who was not born in Johannesburg no African, rather, 
who cannot prove that he was born thereis entitled to 
seek or to find work in the city. Those who are already in 
employment may continue to be so employed (with the 
exception of domestic servants who wish to change their 
jobs I will say more of them later); but none may come 
into the city with the purpose of working unless he can 
prove birth and domicile. Now Alexandra Township is not 
Johannesburg. Although it exists and has always existed 
to serve Johannesburg; although its householders, its ten 
ants, its sub-tenants are the labour force of the city; and 
although the only reason why they live in Alexandra is 
because of its proximity it is not Johannesburg. Strangely 
enough, it only becomes interesting to the City Council 
and citizens of that immensely rich and comfortable place 
when, in dreams of further expansion northward, it is felt 
to be a barrier, a "black spot/* a menace. Then it has sig 
nificance. Today because of this new regulation and the 
fierceness with which it is being enforced, hundreds of 
youngsters who have been born there are being turned 
into gangsters and labelled tsotsis. The boys of Alexandra 
are rotting away in the overcrowded yards, in the dusty 
streets, at the corners, and on the alleys because they can- 
not get out to work even if they want to. Absalom's father 
is working at the O.K. Bazaars. He has been there for fif 
teen years and more, and in the course of that time he 
has managed to buy his own property in the township. 
He has a large family, and Absalom is the oldest boy and 
has just left school. He isn't very clever, And in any case, 
with five more children to educate, there's no hope for him 
of a boarding school where he might be able to train for 
teaching. The only course open to him is a job in town 
a job which will bring in just enough extra cash to clothe 


and feed the youngest children; just enough, too, to make 
it unnecessary for his mother to take in washing and strain 
herself in the last months of her latest pregnancy. A job! 
To be able to join the early-morning queue at the bus stop 
with his father; to be able to feel that at last he is a man 
and that his manhood is worth something. To be able at 
the week's end to have some money in his pocket which 
hasn't been marked with the sweat of someone else's la 
bour but his own, which hasn't been picked up from the 
dusty street where the dice fall. A job! And the satisfac 
tion of a discipline through the day and of a relaxing and 
a resting when work is over. A job! And the companion 
ship it brings with it so different from that ganging up 
which he sees around him and which he fears because of 
its hidden vicious strength and pull. 

But unfortunately Absalom has been born in Alexandra 
Township in his father's house. It is his home. And because 
it is his home, he must not dare to cross the boundary into 
the city to seek that job. He is a prohibited immigrant as 
surely and as completely as any other "foreign native" 
from Portuguese East or Nyasaland or the Federation. He 
is sixteen and able-bodied. He has had as much education 
in a mission school as most of the European boys who earn 
thirty pounds a month and more in the semi-skilled jobs in 
Johannesburg. But his world is narrowed to the place 
where he was born the dust and the crowds and the 
squalor of the township or, as the only alternatives, the 
kitchen or the garden of a European house, itself outside 
the municipal boundary, the labourers' quarters of any 
farmer anywhere in the Union of South Africa. Absalom 
does not usually choose, for his future, the kitchen or the 
stable. Young men have visions. Life, at sixteen, must offer 
something a bit more attractive than wiping dishes, scrub- 



bing floors, cleaning cowsheds, planting potatoes. , , . 
Even young Africans are young men; even young Africans 
have their ambitions, their dreams, their promised land. 
And these things must not be shadowed always by the 
knowledge that they are unattainable. 

So for Absalom even Alexandra Township offers a fu 
ture preferable to that of the kitchen or the farm. Perhaps 
it should not but it does. And if he cannot get the money 
and the freedom which Johannesburg alone can give, he 
must get these things somehow where he is* He must get 
them with the boys in narrow trousers who loaf their lives 
away by old Kumalo's store. He must become a tsotsi, a 
cosh-boy, a wide-guy because at least there's excitement 
that way, while it lasts. He is a prisoner already. He is 
outside the law as soon as he sets foot in the city. He can 
feel himself a pariah because he wants work when he can 
not get it. He will, after all, join Joel and Zaccy and Punch 
and the rest and see how he makes out. It is not long be 
fore he has a revolver of his own, money in his pocket, 
and a hardness about him which even God's own grace 
and power can barely smash. 

An exaggeration? Most people would say so who live 
in the pleasant places of the richest city in Africa; in those 
wide-spreading suburbs of Johannesburg which make it 
an earthly paradise. But then, most people in Johannes 
burg think Alexandra Township is next door to Sophia- 
town. Most people in Johannesburg prefer not to think of 
it at all. And as for Absalom he is a "skeUum/' a tsotsi 
"the kind of kaffir who ought to be sjambokked every 
day; it would teach him sense/* It would also teach him 
not to indulge in the golden dreams of youth when you 
live in Alexandra and haven't a pass. 

I suppose that anyone who has lived in Sophiatown 



or one of the "Native Urban Areas" of South Africa could 
write a book about the pass laws and nothing else. It would 
be a very terrible book, but it would not cause the slightest 
ripple of disturbance in South Africa. And of course there 
are not so very many Europeans who have had the priv 
ilege of living in Sophiatown, No. It is not so much the 
hatreds, the fears, the brutalities which are the basic social 
evils of our country it is the ignorance and, with it, the 
acceptance of the evil. 

So I could tell you the story of Jonas of Jonas who was 
home from school for his summer holidays and who was 
arrested one morning and charged with being a vagrant. 
When I heard about it, it was already late afternoon, and 
by the time I had reached the police station he was wait 
ing in the yard before being locked up for the night. 

"Where was your school pass?" I asked him. 

"They tore it up." 

Luckily the wastepaper basket was still there; luckily I 
found the pass in four pieces. And when I refused to sur 
render it to the sergeant in the charge office I was arrested 
myself. But at least I had the satisfaction, a few days later, 
of a complete apology, cap in hand (and not metaphor 
ically either) of the commandant, who later became Com 
missioner of the South African Police. Yet for every boy 
like Jonas whose arrest was reported to me, there are a 
thousand who have no one to care, a thousand for whom 
a torn-up pass might mean ten days in prison, the loss of 
a job, the beginning of that swift and terrible journey into 
crime. For another consequence of the pass laws a con 
sequence known to every intelligent South African at all 
interested in penal reform is that it leads to an absolute 
contempt for the law. If it is a crime to be in the street 
without a pass, without a bit of paper in your pocket, and 


if that crime is punished automatically with a fine that 
you cannot pay or a sentence of imprisonment well, why 
not commit a crime that is worth while? You stand as good 
a chance of getting away with it as the next man. You stand 
the chance, too, of making something for yourself. The 
magistrates' courts, every day of the week, are crowded 
with pass offenders. Even if, as is generally the case, the 
magistrate is a just man and an honest, he has no alterna 
tive but to administer the law as if he were in care of a 
turnstile at a football ground. 


"Section 17 vagrancy." 

"Guilty or not guilty?" 

The prisoner looks bewildered; the interpreter impa 
tiently snaps out the words again in Xosa or Zulu or 

"Not guilty," and a fumbling attempt to explain why 
his pass is out of order; a brief intervention by the official 
who attends the court on behalf of the pass-office authori 

"Thirty shillings or ten days/' 

The prisoner is bundled down the steps to the cells, and 
another takes his place. His case has taken two minutes. 
If he is fortunate a friend will pay his fine. If not, he will 
remain in prison till his sentence, and very probably his 
job, is finished. And so a vast force of able-bodied men 
is, in fact, compulsorily confined in a building supported 
to house half the number; men who, for the most part, 
are simply technical offenders but who are in South Africa 

In spite of a most excellent arid, incidentally, expensive 
Commission on Penal Reform, whose report included the 
most damning exposure of the dangers to society inherent 



in the system I have described, the system still goes on. 
The report of the Commission was tabled in the House of 
Assembly over five years ago, but nothing so constructive 
as penal reform can find a place on the agenda partic 
ularly when it concerns the effects of the pass laws on 
crime. It is not crime that matters, it is control. And to 
have that control, to know that any native can be stopped 
in the street and questioned, can be turned out of bed at 
night or in the early hours of the morning, can be arrested 
first and questioned afterwardsto have that control, why 
that is proof of supremacy: that is baasskap, that is our 
solution of the racial problem. At least it is part of our 
solution. The only serious defect in the system is that the 
real criminal always has a pass he can buy one for fifteen 
pounds any day of the week, and it is well worth the 

But all these things have been said, have been written 
about, have been part of every discussion on racial prob 
lems for the past twenty years and more. And even though 
it may happen only once in a while, every European citizen 
of Johannesburg experiences sooner or later the arrest of 
his houseboy or the disappearance of his cook. It is part 
of the pattern of life. And on the whole it is a pattern 
which is wonderfully acceptable for it carries within it 
the great idea, of course: of power, of supremacy for white 
ness. It is so comforting, too, to the conscience to be able 
to go and pay the fine or sign the admission of guilt and 
bring Jim back again to his job in the kitchen. It must 
(surely it must) fill his heart with gratitude to the missus 
or the baas, to know that they will take that trouble, to 
know that they really want to be just. ("But I must re 
member to deduct thirty shillings from his wages this 
month to cover the fine.") 


Every citizen experiences it. But every African boy lives 
in the shadow of it from the moment he leaves the class 
room behind him for the last time. And it does not matter, 
either, what position in society he reaches. He is never be 
yond its grasp. It is indeed the shadow his own black 
shadowthat is with him always. So a young African priest, 
a member of my own Community just back from his or 
dination in England and wearing the habit of his order, 
was arrested and handcuffed at nine o'clock one morning 
and brought to me at the priory because he had no pass. 
The European policeman who brought him was a tall, cal 
low, gawky youth who stood in front of me, hands on hips, 
cigarette drooping wet from the corner of his lips. And 
when I was angry and turned him off the premises he said: 
*T11 arrest every bloody kaffir in this place if they break 
the law. . . ." And when that afternoon I went to report 
the incident to the commandant he was furious that the 
story had already appeared in the afternoon edition of the 
Star. But I have long learned that my only weapon in such 
cases is publicity, and so I explained to him. I was not 
surprised at his anger either, for I had expected it. But 
I was surprised when, after a few minutes of fierce rebuke 
(we were alone in his office), the commandant suddenly 
said, gently and wearily: "As a matter of fact, Father, you 
are quite right. If I could leave the force tomorrow I would. 
But if s my livelihood and my profession. So what can I 

A report on the Union's crime was recently published 
in one of the Johannesburg papers. This showed that, in 
one year, of 72,000 Africans convicted, more than 45,000 
fell within the category of pass-law offenders. It showed 
further that a fifth of the time spent by the police on crim 
inal proceedings of one kind or another was spent simply 

on pass-law offences. It revealed what all of us who have 
had anything to do with the situation guessed already 
that over half the time spent in the magistrates' courts 
was spent in dealing with crimes of this sort. "Pass-law 
crimes," said Brigadier Coetzee of Pretoria Police Head 
quarters, "are the only type of statutory offence which 
requires no docket to be opened, no witnesses to be ques 
tioned, and no statements to be taken. Non-production of 
a pass or a pass out of order is generally proof in itself that 
an offence has been committed. . . ." The proof and the 
offence are in fact identical: for if you are an African and 
you have left your papers at home you have committed 
a crime; you can be arrested and imprisoned immediately, 
and the quickest and safest way to get your release is to 
pay an "admission of guilt" fine without argument. The 
fact that you are not guilty of any real offence is beside 
the point. You are an offender because, by accident, you 
have tried to evade the control of the state. You have 
walked freely where you would and have shared the sun- 
bright air with your neighbour; or perhaps you have ac 
tually stood in a bus queue in order to reach your home; 
or perhaps you have gone to post a letter or to buy a soft 
drink. . . . But without a pass you are not entitled to such 
liberties, and it is the duty of the police to remind you of 
the fact, for only in this way is control possible. 

One of the terrible things that happens after a while to 
all of us in South Africa is the acceptance, unwilling or 
otherwise, of a situation which cannot be justified on any 
moral principle but which is so universal, so much a part 
of the whole way of life, that the struggle against it seems 
too great an effort. And this attitude affects the African 
as much as the European. For so long have passes been 
woven into existence itself, for so long has it been the right 



and the duty of every policeman to stop, to search, and 
to question anyone, anywhere, at any time, that the re 
sistance and the will to resist have almost died. And I am 
as guilty in this respect as anyone else. For, although I 
get angry when the boys in my school are arrested on their 
way to the shops ( and what schoolmaster in any country 
would need to spend hours of his time issuing and collect 
ing passes?), I pay their "admission of guilt/' I become 
part of the system. I accept it. Even, sometimes, I get ex 
asperated when one of my own employees fails to produce 
the necessary papers exasperated because it will mean for 
me, as well as for him, hours of wasted and profitless ef 
fort. It is easier to obey, easier to be guilty of connivance 
at an evil, easier, even, to say to oneself, '"Well, perhaps it's 
not so bad after all. It's the law. They're used to it. Why 

Why worry? If the instances I have quoted were just 
isolated moments, the kind of thing that happens in any 
society through the failure of the individual, or the weak 
ness of that human nature which is the basis of society, 
perhaps there would be no need to worry. At least the 
Christian in this world is warned often enough to regard 
himself as a "stranger and pilgrim , * . with no continu 
ing city." And the priest if he is even feebly aware of his 
purpose and functionknows well enough that man is a 
frail and wayward creature. 

Unfortunately it is not the isolated cases of cruelty, of 
sordid motive, or of plain stupidity which make the in 
dictment of the pass laws so grave a matter. It is the whole 
foundation upon which they, like the policy of apartheid 
itself, rest. For, basically, the underlying assumption of the 
pass laws is just this that discrimination is justifiable and 
even commendable if it ensures the permanent superiority 



of one race over another; if it ensures control, baasskap, 

And from this assumption, or perhaps as the origin of it, 
there flows that other even more deadly thing the deper- 
sonalisation of man. This most characteristic modern phe 
nomenonthe submerging of the individual in the mass 
is nowhere more manifest than in South Africa today. 
And it is nowhere more clearly or more devastatingly ex- 
ampled than in the operation of the pass laws. A man is a 
native. A native must carry a pass. A pass is his title to 
existence, his guarantee (so slender and so precious) of 
temporary freedom, his only excuse to authority for being 
where he is and doing what he does. In other words, man 
is reduced, because he is black, to an integer, a finger 
print in a file, a thing rather than a person. But a sentient 
thing, threatened and fearful because of the shape of the 
society of which he is a part. 

I pray God I may never forget or weary in fighting 
against it, for it seems to me that as a Christian, and above 
all as a priest, my manward task is always and everywhere 
the same: to recognise in my brother more than my 
brother, more even than the personality and the manhood 
that are his; my task is to recognise Christ Himself. And 
I cannot, therefore, stand aside when it is He whom men 
treat contemptuously in the streets of the city. 

"I was in prison, and ye visited me not. . . ."* 


III. Till There Be No Place 

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lag 
-field to field, till there be no place. 


I REMEMBER returning one evening from a day of com 
mittees and discussions to the mission in Sophiatown to 
find on the stoep a party of six men waiting patiently for 
my arrival. This was a familiar enough sight and one 
which, very often, I fear, I found daunting. It meant, al 
ways, a problem. And problems at the end of a heavy day 
and before supper and with other business to attend to- 
well, priests are only too conscious of their fallen human 
nature at such moments. But it was a winter evening, and 
winter in Johannesburg at six thousand feet with the wind 
blowing the sand in fine, icy blasts from the mine dumps 
is cheerless, to say the least of it. I did not know these 
men. They sat there on a bench, a silent group, waiting 
to tell me something that had brought them together. I 
asked them in. Their story was a simple one and very sim 
ply told. They lived in one of the yards in Edith Street, 
just a couple of blocks away from the mission house. Like 
thousands of other Johannesburg Africans, their home was 
a row of corrugated-iron shacks built in the very restricted 
area behind someone else's house. Each man had his fam 
ily in one room and paid the landlord perhaps thirty shil- 



lings a month rent for it. It was not much of a home: hot 
in summer when the sun struck down on the iron roof and 
there was no ceiling to protect you, cold in winter because 
the wind penetrated the joints and angles and there were 
no walls save the iron itself. But it was a home, neverthe 
less. It was twelve square feet of room that you could call 
your own for the time being, a place to come back to at 
the end of the day, a place to lie down in. 

This morning the men had gone to work as usual, leav 
ing their wives and children still asleep under the blankets. 
They had returned in the dark evening to find the roofs 
stripped from their shacks, their families squatting in the 
open round a brazier, their children crying with cold and 
the desire for sleep. That was the reason for their visit to 
me. And their question such a familiar one in Sophiatown 
and in all the days and years that I have lived in African 
Johannesburg "Father, what can we do?" 

I went with them to see for myself, and I found a 
woman in labour amongst those round the brazier, and 
her baby was born under the winter stars that night. 
"There was no room for them at the inn w and so, on a 
winter night in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago, 
the Son of God had entered His world in the bleak and 
barren shelter of the stable. It has come back to me again 
and again in the richest city of the Southern Hemisphere 
just how easily man can reject the Christ he proclaims to 
worship. But in that dejected little group in Edith Street 
the picture of Bethlehem and the rejection there came to 
life. It has never left me and I pray it never will. I think 
that the carols of our day, beautiful as they are, can dis 
tort the truth; can be a dangerous escape from the realities 
of the Christian faith if we do not remember that, in fact, 
God's entry into the world was unwelcomed and uncared 



for when it happened; that "He came unto His own and 
His own received Him not." Perhaps I am reading back 
into the event thoughts which did not so crowd in upon 
me at the time it is over five years ago now. But that sight, 
I am sure, made me more determined to try to arouse the 
public conscience on the issue of African housing than any 
thing else. It also made me risk an action for contempt of 

When the whole story was told me it went something 
like this. There are in Johannesburg today some forty thou 
sand African families with no homes of their own. These 
are the labour force of the city, the people upon whose 
work it utterly depends. Five years ago there were slightly 
more, and houses were being built so slowly that they had 
no hope of owning one. So in Sophiatown and Alexandra 
Township and on the peri-urban fringe, shacks were built 
in back yards of existing houses. It increased the density of 
population to danger point. There was a risk from the pub 
lic health angle. There was the creation of a slum within 
the meaning of the act. The landlords who had allowed 
their property to be used for this purpose were warned 
by the local authority that such shacks must be destroyed 
within a certain short period. Otherwise they themselves 
would be prosecuted. They were in a dilemma. Either they 
had to turn whole families on to the street, or they had 
to risk prosecution and punishment. "Father, what can we 
do?" Finally, without warning, the authorities themselves 
took action and chose a winter day on which to do it. That 
was why those six men, returning tired and hungry from 
the city, found their homes destroyed and their families 
under the stars and the wind blowing the sand and the 
dust of the street about them. "Father, what can we do?" 
What indeed? It would not be at all difficult, in the Eng- 



lish context of such a situation, to give the answer. The 
power of the vote, the fact of representation at a local 
level, the influence of the press these things are generally 
sufficient to make protests worth while. It is not so in South 
Africa, for the Africans. Indeed, although Sophiatown is 
a rate-paying suburb, highly assessed for the purpose, 
there has never been any way by which the City Council 
could be made to take an interest in it. There has never 
been any form of representation for its residents at any 
level. And in the whole long history of its development 
over the past fifty years the "improvements" of made-up 
roads, water, sewerage, and electric light have had to be 
fought for and won by interested Europeans, often against 
a dead weight of official inertia and lethargy. It is not so 
very long ago, after all, that if you wanted water in Sophia- 
town you had to walk three or four miles to the nearest 
white suburb and carry it back on your head. You paid a 
penny a bucket for clean water and a halfpenny for dirty 
and in that water quite a lot of the laundering of Eu 
ropean Johannesburg was done. 

"Father, what can we do?" I persuaded one of those 
landlords, George Ndhlovu, who had received an eviction 
order for his tenants, to allow himself to be brought to 
court, and I promised that I would be there on the day. 
In the meanwhile I asked Dr. Ellen Hellmann (now pres 
ident of the South African Institute of Race Relations), 
who perhaps knows more than, any living person about the 
social and economic structure of urban Africa, to accom 
pany me on a deputation to the authorities. It was, at the 
time, an interesting experiment. I have since learned to 
anticipate the kind of reception we met with that day. It 
is no longer interesting merely inexpressibly exhausting. 

We went first to the Medical Officer of Health* In his 



office he sat at a broad desk playing with paper clips. When 
I had explained my business he rang a bell for one of his 
inspectors. "You see, Father, this is the position. . . . Hun 
dreds of these tin shacks, most insanitary because there are 
not sufficient latrines for this surplus population. . . . 
Danger is acute from the public health side, and I have 
to administer the law. ... All these people have been 
warned not to allow shacks on their property. . . . They 
go on building. . . . Mr. Smit here" (he turned to the in 
spector) "will give you the figures for one street. . . ." 

I tried to explain that I was only too familiar with the 
facts. I didn't want any figures. Those stinking yards I 
had visited a hundred times; into those shacks I had only 
this morning carried the Body of Christ. "I wholly agree," 
I said, "that the slum conditions are there. No one is so 
foolish as to deny it. But the reason is also as plain as a 
pikestaff there simply are not any houses available for the 
sub-tenants. With a waiting list of ten or fifteen thousand, 
where are these people to go? Will you tell me how to 
answer them when they come and sit on my stoep and 
ask me? Where are they to go?" 

I remember his answer now, six years later, as clearly 
as if I had heard it for the first time. "That's nothing to do 
with me. My job is to administer the law as it stands/* 

"But you cant deal with people as if they were things; 
you can't turn them out on the street in winter without 
making any provision for them." 

"I tell you, it's nothing to do with me. Go and complain 
to the Manager of Non-European Affairs; housing is his 
concern. Good morning." 

So we went to the manager. He was a good man, per 
haps the best the City Council has ever had. (It was not 
very long afterwards that he resigned in despair over the 



native housing policy of his department.) "Father, you 
know the situation. I've a waiting list here for houses in 
Orlando Township, and many of the people whose names 
are on the list have been waiting for ten years. This is a 
national problem. We simply cannot tackle it locally/' 

"Can't you, at any rate, urge the M.O.H. to hold his 
hand for a bit? To wait at least until there's some possibil 
ity of accommodating people before throwing them on to 
the street?" 

"Sorry. My department can't interfere. There's nothing 
I can do." 

When I got back to Sophiatown I phoned the mayor's 
secretary and asked for an appointment. But when I ex 
plained what I wanted to discuss the appointment was not 
granted. "It's a matter for committee. You can bring a 
deputation if you like. The mayor can do nothing in his 
personal capacity. . . ." And that was as far as I could 
get when on a morning soon afterwards I was sitting at 
the back of "M" Court awaiting the case of my landlord. 
I had taken the precaution of warning the press to send 
someone to report the whole affair. I had also interviewed 
the public prosecutor before the court began its business 
and had explained the whole matter to him. He seemed to 
take a reasonable view. Anyhow, I felt I could do no more, 
. . . "George Ndhlovu . . /' He stood in the dock and 
the charge was read out to him. He began to answer ques 
tions from the prosecutor. ... "I could not turn them out 
on to the street. . . . Yes, they paid rent. . . . No, I did 
not answer the first summons. . . ." The magistrate turned 
to the public prosecutor: "Any comment?" "I suggest a 
sentence to pay a fine of . . ." 

This was the moment I had been waiting for, but I did 
not like it at all Ridiculous to feel so scared when all that 



was needed was a word or two. It was a physical effort 
to stand up, an effort to force my voice to normality, an 
effort to look straight at the magistrate. "May I say some 
thing, Your Worship?'* The magistrate looked a little sur 
prised, but he asked what I had to say. "Simply that it is 
unjust to penalise a man for an offence which is not his 
fault but the fault of society. ..." I would not say now 
that those were my exact words, but they were what I 
tried to say. 

"That is enough. You must sit down. This is a court and 
you have no right to speak. . . ." 

"I am sorry but I must repeat what I have said. . . ." 

A policeman moved across the well of the court to where 
I stood. I took a glance at my pressman, and he was get 
ting it all down. I felt better. "I shall not sit down till I 
have said what I came here to say." 

The magistrate in some confusion ordered the court to 
be cleared, left the bench himself, and left me wondering 
what would happen next. I filled in the next few minutes 
by chatting to those Africans who had come to witness the 
affair: my friends, my own parishioners, the flock or part 
of it over which I had received authority to guard and 
keep my watch. Was it really the function of a priest to 
defy a magistrate? The particular magistrate who was in 
court that morning evidently did not think so, for he had 
brought with him his chief, and I was called out to a dis 
cussion in the lobby. 

"I am surprised at you, a minister of religion, creating a 
disturbance like this. I will not have my magistrates at 
tacked in this way. I must warn you. . . r 

I asked the chief magistrate what else I could have done. 
The M.O.H., the manager, the mayor I had tried each 
one. The public prosecutor had promised to do his best and 



had in fact asked for the maximum penalty to be imposed 
on Ndhlovu. "Is it really the function of the minister of 
religion to remain silent in face of injustice?" The chief 
magistrate told me that there were consitutional methods 
of going about such things and that, he repeated, he would 
not have his magistrates bullied. We left it at that. 

The Star that evening carried a fairly full account of all 
that had happened. It was on that evening, too, that Alan 
Paton, who had been for many years a friend of mine, was 
to give a public reading from Cry, the Beloved Country 
in aid of the African Children's Feeding Scheme. There 
was something very encouraging about listening to Alan 
that night in the drawing room of the Grand National Ho 
tel. Cry, the Beloved Country, with its deep perceptive- 
ness of the root of the problem, revealing to white South 
Africa for the first time the truth about racialism in its ef 
fect on persons . . . that marvellous yet almost inexpres 
sible warmth one feels at certain moments when one's own 
mind and another's are at one. Msimangu's bitter yet so 
profound utterance, "I have one great fear in my heart, 
that, when they are turned to loving we shall be turned 
to hating." 

Is it not to prevent this ghastly end that some of us at 
least are sent to take a stand, even if it is the rather pathetic 
one of making a nuisance of oneself in a magistrate's court? 
I thought so that night, and I think so today. I would not 
dare to say that what I did had any great or permanent 
effect. But I do know that within a week representatives 
of the City Council visited Sophiatown (a rare event in 
itself) and that for quite a while there were no more evic 
tion orders issued to the landlords. Indeed, when I went 
round to Edith Street a few days later, I found that the 
roofs were on again, the women were standing in their own 



doorways, gossiping, the children were playing in the dirt 
and dust of the yard, and the pots were boiling. The men 
would come home again. They would come home if only 
for a while. I think it was worth the effort. 

There is in this incident of George Ndhlovu nothing 
perhaps very startling, nothing very novel. Yet it has for 
me, within itself, certain fundamental principles of the 
Christian faith. And here in Johannesburg it is somehow 
easier to see those principles clearly and at the same time 
to realise how few people there are who seem to value them 
at all. It is the priest's task, or one of them, to stand in the 
pulpit Sunday by Sunday and to preach the moral law of 
the Church. It was Father Basil Jellicoe, that magnificent 
priest of the St. Pancras slums, who first inspired me with 
the thoughtwhich has since become a passion that it is 
a mockery of God to tell people to be honest and pure and 
good if you are making these things impossible by con 
senting to the evil of bad housing. "Consenting," in Johan 
nesburg, is the operative word. I do not think that its 
citizens are any worse, any less compassionate, than those 
of London or New York. I have very good reasons for know 
ing how generous they can be if their hearts are touched 
though the unpredictability of their generosity is also a 
strange thing. But they can go on living in a fantastically 
unreal world in spite of what they know to be true. 

It has always, for instance, amused me to think that those 
who go and enjoy themselves at the Country Club an ex 
pensive and very beautiful place by any standards are 
doing so within a mile and a half of the "black spot" of 
Sophiatown. In all probability their "girl" or their "garden- 
boy" has a home there too. They know it as a name (who 
can fail to, who reads the press?) but they have never 
been there, and they have no sense of obligation which 



would move them to go. So, day after day, those whose 
home is a shack in Newclare or a breeze-block shelter in 
Orlando or a mud-brick hovel in Moroka set off to work in 
one of the lovely suburbs of Johannesburg. They spend 
their time in the kitchen or the laundry, washing and clean 
ing, using every kind of American gadget, looking upon 
gleaming white walls and stainless-steel sinks and pretty 
furniture. Or perhaps, if male, they drive the boss to his 
office or to his factory in the Cadillac and spend the 
morning adding to its polish. Then they return in the over 
crowded train to Newclare and Orlando and Moroka to 
the shack and the shelter and the hopelessness of making 
it any different. 

The point is this. In a South African city it is not merely 
the contrast between wealth and poverty which is so ob 
vious. It is the fact that this contrast is forced upon the 
African every day of his life for he lives in one world and 
his master in another, and h$ must move from one to the 
other all his days, It is the fact, too, that it is not merely a 
contrast between wealth and poverty that he seesit is a 
contrast based upon the accident of colour. Wealth is 
white; poverty is black* Both co-exist in the same city 
within a few miles of one another. The contrast is com 
pulsory, inevitable, and, for most Africans, unending. For 
the European it is never so. The native who works for him 
is either a "good boy" or a "skellum" and, if the latter, 
he does not work for him for long: there are plenty of 
others. The "girl" in the kitchen (who is probably the 
mother of a family in spite of her name) is nowadays con 
sidered almost certainly "difficult" or "spoilt" or "ungrate 
ful" and is regarded as a potential thief from the moment 
she sets foot in the place of her labours. But she is still a 
necessity as much so as the electric iron or the Aga stove 


part of one's way of life. European contact with Africans 
in the city is limited entirely to this master-servant rela 
tionship. Every judgment, every opinion as to the future 
of "the native question/' is in fact based upon it. The real 
life of the Africanhis home, his family, his interests is 
as unknown to the European in Johannesburg as it is to 
the European in Paris. And so it is that the colossal prob 
lem of housing has been left untouched for so many years. 
And with that problem all the other social problems, which 
are religious and ethical problems too, are inextricably 
mingled and are unknown to white South Africa. 

The "crime list" is published daily in the newspaper and 
read with concern over the breakfast coffee in Parktown. 
The increase in crimes of violence, the general sense of 
insecurity which it brings, the thefts and the assaults and 
the alarming spread of juvenile delinquency these things 
are read about every day, and with concern. But the back 
ground to the problems the home and family life of the 
urban African that is behind a barrier which must not be 
penetrated. Just occasionally the barrier is breached for 
a few hours or a few days through some external accident 
or catastrophe. Then white Johannesburg wakes up, sets 
about things in a frenzy of activity, satisfies its conscience 
and sleeps. 

Such an accident (called, euphemistically "an act of 
God" ) happened two or three years ago when a tornado 
struck Albertynville. Albertynville belongs to what is 
known as the ^peri-urban area" of the city. That is to say 
it is outside the jurisdiction of Johannesburg City Council, 
and the Board which is its governing body has rather too 
many commitments to make its own jurisdiction very effec 
tive. It is about ten or twelve miles from the centre of the 
city a squatters' camp sited on a particularly bleak and 



barren piece of veldt. The land is owned by an individual 
who charges rent to each squatter electing to build his 
shack there. Amenities are almost entirely lacking. It is just 
a conglomeration of lean-to, corrugated-iron, and mud- 
brick dwellings, with water, of a kind, not too far away. 
Albertynville is just one of many such camps on the per 
imeter of the city, and it houses several hundred of those 
who work there. It is no worse and no better than scores 
of other similar places. But on the night of the tornado it 
looked very much like a no man's land in Flanders in the 
1914-18 war. The force of the wind had simply ripped 
roofs off and carried walls away as if they were made of 
paper ( and some of them almost were anyway! ) . The rain 
had left sodden mounds of rubble where a few hours be 
fore men and women had prepared and eaten a Sunday 
dinner. Against a stormy and moon-bright sky the wreck 
age of the camp stretched out its strange and knotted 
fingers. But what was most striking about the whole, eerie 
scene was, in the first place, the absence of all Africans; 
in the second, the long line of shining motorcars which 
for hours had been streaming out of European Johannes 
burg to bring assistance- It was extremely difficult to get 
near the place unless you knew a side route* Ever since 
the wireless announcement two or three hours before, the 
public had been racing to the scene. But by ten o'clock that 
night (the tornado had struck in the early evening) there 
was no resident in sight. All had vanished into the neigh 
bouring camps or perhaps into the wide veldt itself. 
When the whole situation had been properly assessed it 
was discovered that between a hundred and two hundred 
families had been rendered temporarily homeless* But the 
sight of those forlorn bits of wreckage that had been 
the old iron tins and biscuit boxes, the mud 


crumbling into slime, the timber from packing cases- 
struck at the heart of white Johannesburg. Money, clothes, 
provisions a mayor's appeal to give the final stamp of au 
thority to such a providing came pouring in. For a week 
Albertynville and its inhabitants were the target for gen 
erosity in a big way. I have no doubt that those who were 
dispossessed of home and property by that tornado re 
ceived compensation such as they had never dared to im 
agine. And the aftermath of it all, in white Johannesburg, 
was a faint and uneasy stirring of the mind. "Do our na 
tives really live like that? Are those pictures true? Isn't it 
time something was done about native housing? After all, 
it must be dangerous from the health point of view, and 
disease knows no colour bar. . . /' But it was only a faint 
and uneasy stirring. Within a month it was forgotten. 
Albertynville is still there, and its inhabitants have re 
turned to new disfiguring shacks upon the veldt. 

The door, however, had been opened a little. It all 
helped us in our crusade (for such it became) to persuade 
the local authority and the government to do some build 
ing. The moral of the Albertynville story is, I suppose, a 
not unusual one anywhere. Man can live alongside of an 
evil all his life and refuse to recognise it, still less to think 
that it is his duty to do anything about it. Lazarus lay 
at the door of Dives for a very long while, and no doubt 
the rich man drove past him time and again as he left his 
home and returned of an evening. If he thought about 
him at all, he was conscious of a sort of resentment against 
the society which allowed beggars, rather than of his own 
duty to a fellow man. It took the shock of hell to awaken 
Dives. And then it was a bit too late to do him much good. 
I have sometimes thought that in the Dives and Lazarus 
society which is Johannesburg there is no shock which is 



sufficiently strong really to arouse the public conscience 
for longer than a week on any vital issue. A tornado does 
not happen very often. And even that does not leave more 
than a rapidly fading memory of momentary kindness be 
hind it. The shacks are still there. 

Since I came to Johannesburg twelve years ago, some 
of my most interesting, as well as frustrating, experiences 
have been connected with the city's vast housing problem. 
To understand this it is essential to realise one fundamen 
tal principle of government policya principle absolutely 
involved in the doctrines of apartheid and white suprem 
acy: the twin pillars upon which all development in South 
Africa must rest. It is the principle of migratory labour, 
Here I am not attempting to discuss this principle as it 
affects the gold mines; that is another subject altogether. 
Let me try to state the position as simply and as clearly 
as I can, and as I think Dr. Verwoerd (Minister of Native 
Affairs) would himself express it. First, social separation 
between the white and the black races is essential if white 
civilisation is to be preserved. Second, the presence of the 
native in industry is essential if the economy of the coun 
try is to retain its balance. Third, industry is located in the 
towns. How, then, can the social separation be maintained? 
It is not enough to make certain of geographical separate- 
ness by the creation of native locations and townships. 
History has shown that those locations which were outside 
the city twenty years ago have now been encircled and are 
inside European areas today. It is not enough to make reg 
ulations and to enforce entry restrictions in urban areas, 
for such regulations and restrictions tend to lose their force 
when they apply to more than half the total population of 
a town. It is not enough, either, to apply a colour bar which 
will cut the native off from almost every source of "West- 


em" culture by depriving him of the possibility of enjoying 
music or art or theatre. He has his own. You have to make 
sure that the native in the urban areas is, and knows that 
he is, there on sufferance. That he has no permanence of 
any kind. That he is a migrant whose sole purpose is to 
provide labour in factory and office and home for the 
white-man-boss. "There is no room/* says the Minister of 
Native Affairs, "for him in European society above the level 
of certain forms of labour/' The whole conception, there 
fore, of native housing in the cities must be governed by 
this most vital consideration. There must be no perma 
nence about it. It must be possible, if not by a tornado 
then at least by an act of Parliament, to remove an African 
township as soon as it becomes at all probable that it is 
taking root. It must be impossible for any African, what 
ever his social position, whatever his wealth, to own his 
home in the town so that he can regard it as permanently 
his possession and that of his children. Freehold rights, 
therefore, are a fundamental denial of the very basis of 
apartheid and intolerable as such. All housing schemes 
and all efforts to catch up on the appalling backlog in hous 
ing in Johannesburg must have one fundamental quality: 

In a speech in the Senate in June 1955, Dr. Verwoerd 
gave official expression to the desirability of the migratory 
labour system, not only on the mines but in other direc 
tions as well. "I believe/' said the minister, "that the 
strengthening of this system and the extension of it to other 
fields of work for the natives will be in their interests, be 
cause the vested business interests in the European towns 
would see that the urban locations never grew to be full- 
grown native towns. Such a development also did not ac 
cord with government policy" Dr. Verwoerd is generally 


logical. In the whole vast issue of native housing, his chief 
concern is to demonstrate that the native labourer is in the 
city for one reason onlythe labour he can supply. So al 
though Johannesburg is ringed round on its western cir 
cumference with the vast townships of Orlando, Moroka, 
Jabavu, and the rest; although these African locations have 
today something over a quarter of a million inhabitants 
there must be no permanence. These are, in reality, labour 
camps, though often enough, in the better built areas, the 
houses are sufficiently strong to last for generations. The 
monotonous rows of "pre-f abs," so familiar in Europe, have 
been reproduced in Johannesburg. 

There has been little imagination in the planning and 
none at all in the approach to a community-conscious town 
in a place such as Orlando. It is a "location" a "place for 
natives" that is the South African ideal: an abstraction 
which will serve its purpose and which will be conven 
iently forgotten. It is a "location" in another sense also a 
"place" which today is and tomorrow can be elsewhere. 
That the people living in it should care where they live, or 
have a love for their homes, or dream dreams of having 
somewhere to spend their old age that is a secondary con 
sideration. In the eyes of Dr. Verwoerd it is not worth 
considering at all, for it is undesirable. The African is in 
the town to work. That is his function* If he desires a fuller 
life and a sense of "belonging," then he must go to the 

"The apartheid policy" he said, "is one of getting the 
natives to grow from their own roots out of their own in 
stitutions and from their own powers. It is a policy of 
gradual development, through mother tongue and own en 
vironment, to bring the natives to literacy and usefulness 
in their own circle." And so although there are today mil 


lions of Africans in the urban areas and, of those millions, 
hundreds of thousands who have been born and bred 
there, the town is not and must not be their home. Al 
though their labour is the foundation of the whole South 
African economy and forces them into daily contact with 
the industrialised society of Western man, their future is 
in their past, in "their own circle/' in the tribalism that the 
white man has done his best to smash to bits and that 
migratory labour destroys more swiftly than anything else 

Together with so much else that is wrong or positively 
evil in South Africa today, the roots of the African housing 
problem go much deeper than the past seven or eight years 
of Nationalist rule. They flourish in the sort of apathy and 
selfishness which belongs to man himself but which seems 
to find a peculiarly strong expression in the wealthy city 
of Johannesburg. I remember a March day in 1944. 1 hap 
pened to be in Orlando that morning. Looking across at 
the main road which runs through the location, I saw a few 
little groups of people, women and children mostly, carry 
ing or dragging along behind them a great bulk which was 
hard to distinguish. As they marched, what at first ap 
peared to be a few became a growing but straggling rout 
of people. The bulky shapes upon their backs or in their 
hands or on their heads were in fact their household goods. 
In the late afternoon there were hundreds of people, hun 
dreds of families streaming out on to the veldt, erecting 
shacks of mealie stalks, hessian, poles, biscuit tins, old iron 
anything that would provide shelter. As the week wore 
on they were joined by hundreds more, some of whom 
had travelled from far along the Reef to face a winter 
under such conditions rather than wait any longer for the 
houses that were never built. 



So the first of Johannesburg's shanty towns came to be 
built on municipal land, in protest against the seem 
ingly endless delays to provide housing. It was called 
"Sofasonke" which, being interpreted, means "we shall 
all die together/' That was eleven years ago. Today, in the 
very centre of Orlando, there remains the evidence of that 
terrible time: it is called "The Shelters." It houses some 
thirty thousand Africans in lean-to, breeze-block sheds 
which were built as a temporary measure to house the 
squatters. The promise was that these shelters would be 
demolished within five years and their inhabitants housed 
decently elsewhere. But eleven years have passed. The 
population has grown by natural increase, Almost every 
shelter in area roughly twelve feet by ten has been the 
home of its original family through those long days. Stoeps 
have been added, doors fitted to the empty frames, win 
dows built in. But the streets still stink with the effluent, 
there is no drainage, there is nothing which would encour 
age a man or a woman to live decently; indeed, there is 
no possibility of decency in those dark and fearfully over 
crowded cells for which the City Council charges rent. So 
thirty thousand people who are the labour force of one of 
the richest cities in the Southern Hemisphere rot away in 
those long alleys and have nowhere else to go. 

When winter set in in the first year it was essential to 
do something for the women and children. I remember es 
pecially well a certain Saturday afternoon when the wind 
was blowing dust across the veldt and the frail little 
shanties were almost torn from their moorings. The Coun 
cil had decided to erect soup kitchens. The people had de 
cided to boycott them. We had decided to open our mission 
school as a place of refuge for the women and children 
to sleep in that night. I went to see Mpanza, the leader of 



the squatters, and could not find him. Instead I suddenly 
heard the noise of men running and voices shouting. I was 
pulled from behind and shoved very hard into one of the 
shacks. "Quick, Father, stay in here; don't move till they've 
gone/' I learnt that a gang of men, thinking I was in some 
way connected with the Council's soup kitchens, had run 
to attack me, and I had only just missed being hit with a 
knobkerrie from the rear. Not a very important incident, 
perhaps, but one which illustrates as well as any other the 
attitude of the squatters to the authority which offered 
them soup instead of homes. It is, unfortunately, the kind 
of offer which has been made a good many times in the 
past few years, as the shelters, standing grey and unsmil 
ing on the bleak hillside, bear witness. 

In January 1946, the same thing happened again. For 
months, through summer rains and winter winds, hundreds 
of families lived and hundreds of babies died in the shacks 
of "Tobruk." Father Michael Scott came and lived amongst 
the people and ministered to them as best he could. To 
my shame, I did very little to help him. Somehow it took 
me a long while to wake up, and it is good to be able to 
apologise publicly now for an apathy I cannot excuse. 
Eventually this second wave of squatters, and even a third, 
was moved to another "temporary" camp at Moroka 
some twelve miles from the city and their work and on one 
of the bleakest bits of veldt imaginable. 

Moroka Emergency Camp is now eight years old. It 
houses sixty thousand of Johannesburg's African citizens. 
Although the hessian has been replaced by tin or mud 
brick, and although deep pit-latrines have been provided, 
the "houses" are on plots twenty feet by twenty feet square. 
This is home. From it, in the dark dawn, the men go to 
work on bicycles or in crowded buses; to it they return, 



in the dark again when their day is done. This is home. 
It is impermanent. It is not even yeta location, though 
it soon will be when, please God, the shacks have been 
replaced with municipal houses. 

In the meanwhile, eight miles nearer to the city on the 
same western circumference, men are pulling down with 
all the speed they can the houses of Sophiatown. For 
Sophiatown is that strange anomaly in South Africa, an 
urban area in which non-Europeans can actually own their 
houses and the land upon which those houses are built. 
Sophiatown has a quality about it despite its overcrowd 
ing and its often squalid yards which may not be allowed 
to exist in Dr. Verwoerd's country, It is, actually, a suburbl 
It is a suburb in the same way as Parktown or Westcliflf 
or Waverley! It is, in fact, next door to two "white" areas. 
And it has freehold tenure. That is permanence. So it must 
cease to exist. But the story is quite a long one and needs 
a chapter to itself. In the meanwhile the Orlando shel 
ters, the Moroka Emergency Camp, the fifty-year-old tin 
"tanks" which had been condemned as unfit for human 
habitation over twenty years ago these places still stand. 
If cities fall under the judgment of God as I believe St. 
John means us to understand from his apocalypse then 
I have little doubt that Johannesburg will be condemned 
for this reason alone: that it accepted man's sweat and 
man's toil and denied him the possibility of a home. It is 
the stable of Bethlehem over again, "He came unto His 
own and His own received Him not." 

IV. The Christian Dilemma 

If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall 
prepare himself for the battle? 


THE DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH took the initiative in De 
cember 1954 in calling a conference of Christian bodies to 
meet together to discuss the racial problems of South 
Africa. Not, of course, that this conference was the first to 
be held, but it was the first of its kind definitely sponsored 
by the church to which the majority of Afrikaners belong. 
The hall in which the meeting took place was "zoned/* so 
that the white and black delegates should not sit together. 
One African minister, getting up to speak, prefaced his 
remarks by asking a question: "If Our Lord Jesus Christ 
came into this room this morning, on which side would He 

That question is not a bad way of stating the dilemma 
in which Christians find themselves in South Africa. Rather 
an oversimplified statement of the problem, perhaps, but 
basically the problem all the same. And it is certainly not 
too soon for Christians the world over to know what is 
involved in it and why it is so vitally important to have 
some answer to it. In the first place, South Africa claims 
to be a Christian state. The present government gets more 
indignant in public over any challenge on this issue than 



previous governments. The leaders of the three "branches" 
of the Dutch Reformed Church have spent a great deal 
of time on debating whether apartheid is or is not conso 
nant with biblical teaching and authority. The average 
citizen who attends church knows that somehow, by ra 
tionalisation or escape, he has to answer the same question 
posed by St. Paul in another context: "Is Christ divided?" 
It is my considered opinion that unless the Christian 
Church in South Africa really faces this issue honestly 
within the next generation or less, it may well lose and 
deservedlythe allegiance of the African people. And it 
is also my opinion, and one which is not only unpopular 
with those outside the Anglican Church but also with those 
in authority within it, that the issue is not being honestly 
faced nor properly presented to the conscience of the 
Christian world. After all, the Christian cannot escape the 
daily responsibility of choice, or if he does he is not in fact 
accepting the challenge of his faith. Yet in South Africa 
every day and almost every moment the white Christian 
is confronted with a choice of quite momentous conse 
quence. The same choice, in fact, that was put before the 
priest and the Levite as they hurried past that torn and 
bleeding figure on the way down from Jerusalem to Jeri 
cho. The same choice that confronted Dives as he drove 
in and out of his mansion and hardly noticed the man lying 
at his gate, full of sores. The same choice, I would dare to 
say, that nearly tore the Christian Church asunder when 
St, Paul withstood St. Peter to the face over the admission 
of the Gentiles. ""Who is my neighbour?" That is the ques 
tion which Christians cannot evade; or if they do so in this 
life they must yet stand and answer one day before a more 
august Tribunal. "Who is my neighbour?" asked the clever 
young lawyer when he thought to destroy by mockery or 



argument the reputation of that upstart prophet from 
Nazareth. He got for an answer the parable of the good 
Samaritan. He was compelled to acknowledge, grudgingly 
but publicly, the possibility that racial difference and the 
prejudice that goes with it must submit to a higher law. 
Christians in South Africa are afraid even to ask the ques 
tion. Can it be because deep in their hearts they know 
the answer and reject it? 

The white Christian and the black profess the same al 
legiance to the same Lord. They recite the same Creeds, 
receive the same sacraments, have the same forms of wor 
ship. They use every day, no doubt, that prayer, common 
to all Christians, whose first words are: "Our Father . . ." 
But what of their relationship to one another in the city 
where they live out their lives? They can, it is true, pass 
one another in the street and so share the same air, the 
same shadows, the same blue sky. They can also meet to 
gether, master and servant, in a thousand different con 
texts: in kitchen, in factory, in office, in police court. This 
is contact. It is not relationship. It can never be love, 
ayaTTT? the thing which Christianity is about. "Who is my 
neighbour?" He is the man I see entering the post office 
to post a letter but he may not enter the same door as 
myself. "Who is my neighbour?" He is the man who makes 
my tea at ten o'clock and four and who brings it to me every 
day of my life in the office but he cannot sit at table and 
drink it with me. "Who is my neighbour?" He is the child 
who comes to collect the washing on Mondays and to 
return it on Fridays, the child who passes a recreation 
ground with swings and seesaws and cool green grass but 
who may not enter it because it is labelled "European 
Children Only." Is this a sentimental approach to a prob 
lem which needs objectivity and a calm and reasoned so- 



lution? If it is, I cannot escape the charge of sentimentality, 
South Africa can do with a little more sentiment in these 
matters. It would be a refreshing change from the hypoc 
risy and rationalisation with which apartheid is justified 
from so many Christian pulpits and in so many Christian 

I was asked not very long ago to give an address to the 
group of African students in training at a government nor 
mal college near Pretoria. It was the students themselves 
who had asked me, and I took with me an African priest 
who acts as chaplain to the Anglican men in residence. 
My paper, as it happened, was an attempt to show the 
relevance of religion to the problems of everyday life: the 
kind of address which I imagine is given hundreds of times 
in English schools and colleges to young men who think 
that Christianity is outmoded and irrelevant. The princi 
pal of the college asked if he might attend: he was an 
Afrikaner and a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. 
At the end of the meeting he kindly asked me to have a 
cup of tea in his house. I told him I had an African priest 
with me. He thought hard for a moment, then invited both 
the priest and an African teacher to accompany us. As we 
walked across the veldt towards his house set some dis 
tance from the college he inquired with genuine surprise 
how I could believe that in fact Christianity had anything 
to do with such things as race relations, social problems, 
South African policies. Under a bright and unclouded 
moon I tried to answer, but I knew I was not understood. 
We reached his house. I was shown into the drawing room* 
The African priest and teacher were shown into the office. 
We all had teawas it from the same pot? and were 
treated courteously but separately. Only the light of the 
moon and the sounds of the veldt we shared as South Af- 



ricans that night. I could, of course, multiply such an il 
lustration many times. I have used it simply to show two 
of the characteristic features of the approach of the ordi 
nary, good Dutch Reformed Christian to this question. 

I would like now to consider that approach more care 
fully. But I would say at the outset that I am handicapped 
by a profound difficulty: that of not knowing personally 
more than one or two predikants I can use only the official 
pronouncements of the churches concerned. Let me quote 
the most recentthat of the Commission for Current Prob 
lems of the Federated Ned. Geref. Kerke: 

"Every nation and race will be able to perform the great 
est service to God and the world if it keeps its own national 
attributes, received from God's own hand, pure with hon 
our and gratitude. . . . God divided humanity into races, 
languages and nations. Differences are not only willed by 
God but are perpetuated by Him. Equality between na 
tives, coloureds and Europeans includes a misappreciation 
of the fact that God, in His Providence, made people into 
different races and nations. . . . Far from the word of God 
encouraging equality, it is an established scriptural prin 
ciple that in every community ordination there is a fixed 
relationship between authorities, . . . Those who are cul 
turally and spiritually advanced have a mission to leader 
ship and protection of the less advanced. . . . The natives 
must be led and formed towards independence so that 
eventually they will be equal to the Europeans, but each 
on their own territory and each serving God and their own 

It is only fair to say that this Commission's report was 
heavily criticised by several eminent Dutch Reformed 
predikants, including Dr. Ben Marais. Nevertheless, I be 
lieve it to be in general outline a completely just statement 



of an attitude and a theological view accepted by a very 
large number within that church and indeed outside it. 
It carries with it the implication that all racial differences 
are not only willed by God in His act of creation but are 
to be sustained by Him to the end of time. It further in 
volves the assumption that there has been no intermingling 
of races through the centuries without loss and presumably 
sin since such intermingling must be, ipso facto, contrary 
to the Divine Will. And it makes no mention whatever of 
the intervention of God in the world in the Person of His 
Son. In other words, the view here expressed ( and I am 
convinced that, with some modifications and differences, 
it is the view of most Dutch Reformed Church members) 
is sub-Christian. I say sub-Christian rather than Old Tes 
tament because I suppose that somewhere behind the ob 
scure and murky twilight theology it represents there are 
remembrances of the Gospel message. I cannot find them. 
The truth is that the Calvinistic doctrines upon which 
the faith of the Afrikaner is nourished contain within 
themselves like all heresies and deviations from Catholic 
truth exaggerations so distorting and so powerful that it 
is very hard indeed to recognise the Christian faith they 
are supposed to enshrine. Here, in this fantastic notion of 
the immutability of race, is present in a different form the 
predestination idea; the concept of an elect people of God, 
characteristic above all else of John Calvin. And like so 
many other ideas transplanted from their European con 
text, it has been, subconsciously perhaps but most really, 
narrowed still further to meet South African preconcep 
tions and prejudices. It fits exactly the meaning which the 
Afrikaner likes to give to the Great Trek. Just as the chil 
dren of Israel had their Exodus and their journeyings 
through the wilderness to the Promised Land so the 



Voortrekkers had to escape from the Egypt of British dom 
ination and to fight their way through against the on 
slaughts of the heathen. The place names on the map of 
South Africa are a sufficient witness to the truth of what 
I have written. Just as the children of Israel had a divine 
mission, a divinely given leadership which set them apart 
from and over against the indigenous peoples, the tribes 
they had met with and conquered-so the "Afrikaner-volt" 
also had its unique destiny on the continent of Africa. It 
is to be for all time the nation representing purity of race: 
whiteness, divinely ordained and given. 

Logically, therefore, the native peoples also are part of 
a divine plan. They are in South Africa by right also. 
(Though it is a subject of debate whether they reached 
the area now known by that name at the same time as or 
before the white man. ) But they must know their place. 
They are to be led, to be guided, to be governed by the 
chosen people. That is their destiny. It is written in the 
Book. Or, if it isn't, it ought to be. Calvinism, with its great 
insistence on "election/' is the ideally suitable religious 
doctrine for white South Africa. It provides at the same 
moment a moral justification for white supremacy and an 
actual day-to-day reason for asserting it. "Eventually they 
will be equal to the Europeans . . " but, thank God, 
"eventually" will be when we are dead and our children's 
children will have to face a new world in Africa. So we 
must hope. 

I do not think this is an exaggerated view of the under 
lying belief of the Dutch Reformed Church. And it is a 
view not merely held and preached by the minister in the 
pulpit. With all its faults and errors, the Dutch Reformed 
Church seems to have succeeded, where many another 
Christian body has failed, in giving its lay members a the- 



ological outlook on life. We were giving a party a few 
months ago in the school. I happened to be about when 
the van bearing the meat pies drove in at the gate. The 
young man driving the van an Afrikaner of, I suppose, 
twenty-five years of age got out and asked me where he 
could deliver the meat pies. "What is this place?" 

"An African secondary school, run by the Anglican mis 

"What do they learn here, these natives?" 

"The same as European children: it was, in fact, the first 
African school in the Transvaal to reach Matric. standard/' 

"But what's the use? Isn't Dr. Verwoerd right in starting 
Bantu Education?" 

I told the young man that as a result of "Bantu Educa 
tion" St. Peter's school would soon be closing down. It was 
at that point that we began to talk theology. This young 
van driver was a devout member of his kerk. I can remem 
ber his exact words as he clinched his argument about 
apartheid and the necessity for segregation. "Our differ 
ence," he said, "is eschatalogical." I wondered how many 
Anglican van drivers, speaking incidentally in a foreign 
language, could have used that term so accurately. And 
he was right. Basically the Dutch Reformed Church cannot 
conceive of a relationship between black and white in this 
world which is in any sense real or tangible in terms of 
love. Perhaps at the end of time, in the last days (which 
is what eschatology means ) it may be possible. "After this 
I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude which no man could 
number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and 
tongues, stood before the Throne, and before the Lamb. 
. . /' But there must not and cannot be any reflection of 
this vision in the congregations of God's children here on 
earth. "That they may be one, as Thou Father art in me 



and I in Thee, that the world may believe . . " Our Lord's 
prayer for unity can have no reference to this world, even 
though the fulfilment of it would mean the world's believ 
ing. Apartheid separation here on earth: that is a precon 
dition of eternal bliss hereafter. "The great gulf fixed" is 
an image of this world's heaven, not of the next world's 

It is essential to understand this fact about South Af 
rican religion, even if it does not make it any easier to un 
derstand how such a religion squares with the Christian 
Gospel. It would, I think, be true to say that the Dutch 
Reformed Church has abandoned the attempt to find ac 
tual scriptural authority for the doctrine of apartheid other 
than the rather general argument about the Creation 
which I have tried to outline. But it is also true to say 
that the Dutch Reformed Church is the strongest expo 
nent of "total apartheid" in this country. When at its 
Bloemfontein conference it expressed this view very 
clearly and went on to point out the logic of it namely, 
that industry would have to do without black labour, that 
whites would have to do their own housework, that there 
would have to be a fresh approach to the land question 
the government's reaction was immediate. Dr. Daniel 
Malan, Prime Minister and ex-predikant, dissociated him 
self entirely from this view of apartheid and affirmed with 
vigour that it was not the view of the Nationalist Party. In 
other words and in simple terms, the Dutch Reformed 
Church recognises that if there is to be a just apartheid 
(which indeed it fully believes in and hopes for), it must 
be total. In so far as the majority of leading Afrikaners are 
members of that church, they are bound to be greatly in 
fluenced by such a view. But for practical and political 
reasons the government cannot possibly act on such an 



assumption. The Union is becoming increasingly industri 
alised and cannot find the labour, skilled or unskilled, to 
meet its own development. The land set apart for purchase 
to provide more Reserves, more purely "native areas," has 
not yet been bought even to the limited extent planned. 
It cannot be, because the European farmer is unwilling to 
sell, and it is the European farmer's vote which counts for 
most. So we have reached yet another paradox in this land 
of paradox: those who desire apartheid from the best mo 
tives are opposed and thwarted in their plans for achieving 
it by those who also desire it, but from the lowest and 
least worthy. As always in a fallen world, it is the latter 
group which is most numerous and most powerful. 

If, then, the Dutch Reformed Church believes so 
strongly in apartheid, why does it embark upon "mission 
ary" work and what is the basis of such work? In the Af 
rican Reserves as well as in the urban areas the Dutch 
Reformed Church has for years both evangelised and pro 
vided schools and normal colleges. Many of these latter 
are of as high a standard in building, equipment, and 
staffing as any mission station in the country. And there 
are white predikants working these missions. True, there 
is never any intermingling of races either in worship or, so 
far as that is possible, in work. True, the predikant on the 
"mission ring" has a rather different status from his brother 
who is engaged in white work. But, nevertheless, a great 
deal of money is given by the European congregations to 
the missions, a great deal of interest is taken in their work. 
Why? To what end? 

I had occasion recently to write to a Dutch Reformed 
institution to ask them to receive and conduct a party of 
American educationalists round their centre* In the letter 
of reply the principal of the school wrote: "We shall be 



very pleased to show these American tourists how much 
the whites are doing for the natives in South Africa." 

I do not for one moment wish to impugn the sincerity or 
the devotion of the Dutch Reformed missionary. I have no 
doubt that his first purpose in undertaking the work or 
responding to the vocation which is his is to preach the 
Gospel, to teach his flock to know and love and serve 
Almighty God. But it is always with the conviction that 
somehow in the eternal purposes of Providence the white 
race is to lead the black: the black race is to depend upon, 
to look up to, to need the white. Baasskap, they call 
it. "Boss-ship" "overlordship" in spiritual as in material 
things, for ever and ever, amen. The only illogicality of it 
is that, with total apartheid, presumably the day must 
come and must be desired when black and white Christians 
have no earthly contact with each other at all. Then, one 
imagines, the African must still remember that there are 
white Christians, that their civilisation is superior to his, 
but that now it is out of his reach: 

East is East, and West is West, 
And never the twain shall meet. . . . 

Perhaps even the bliss of heaven must depend upon 
some form of eternal baasskap shaded white. Everyone 
knows that the political influence of the Dutch Reformed 
Church (which incidentally is made up of three separate 
churches) is in South Africa very great indeed. By its in 
sistence on the morality of segregation it makes a tremen 
dously strong predisposing factor in the whole issue which 
confronts the country. It is not too much to say that it 
gives to apartheid exactly the religious sanction which the 
Christian Church everywhere else in the world gives to 
the idea that "all men are of equal value in the sight of 



God." And so it was possible, at the World Council of 
Churches in 1954, for the South African representatives of 
the Dutch Reformed Church to withhold their assent from 
the declaration which affirmed any form of racial discrim 
ination to be contrary to the will of God. They stood en 
tirely alone in Christendom on this issue, separated even 
from their parent church in Holland. 

The isolation of the church is echoed in the isolationism 
of South Africa herself. The bitter complaints that she is 
"misunderstood" at the U.N. and elsewhere are part of a 
whole attitude, an attitude very largely formed by the 
theological, or pseudo-theological, doctrines of a church 
entirely out of touch with the Christian world. It is this 
indeed which makes it so desperately difficult to find any 
common ground for the discussion of the racial "problem" 
in this country. For theological differences are notoriously 
the most difficult to resolve. When recently I was discuss 
ing the implications of the Bantu Education Act with one 
of the senior government officials in the department, I felt 
bound to say at the end of a long, friendly, but fruitless 
argument: "The truth is that we worship different Gods." I 
do not think I exaggerated. 

But of course, though it is the largest single Christian 
body in white South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church 
is not dominant in the country as a whole. The Methodist, 
the Anglican, the Roman Catholic, the Presbyterian in 
fact, practically every Christian body in Christendomis 
represented and, in the "mission field," very strongly rep 
resented. There should be no question of the power of their 
witness on the racial issues. Why, in fact, is it so ineffec 
tive? Why, in fact, does the European population of the 
Union, the English-speaking section especially, accept and 
live by the concept of apartheid if it is contrary to the 


teaching of the church or denomination to which it be 
longs? What is the matter with the witness of the Church 
here that it can influence policies so little? 

I will not presume to criticise any Christian body other 
than the Anglican Church the Church of the Province of 
South Africa, as it is officially called to which I belong 
and of which I am a priest. This is not to suggest that the 
other Christian bodies are in no need of criticism, nor is 
it to suggest that the Anglican Church is especially blame 
worthy. I think it would be true to say that in outspoken 
ness, in the utterances of her archbishops and bishops, in 
the published resolutions of her synods the Church has 
been outstanding. But over the past twelve years, at any 
rate, this witness has been totally ineffective in its influence 
on the mass of white South Africa. I do not say that that 
is a reason for refraining from such utterance. 'Whether 
they will hear, or whether they wiH forbear/' the truth 
must be told, the voice must proclaim principles of justice 
and mercy and love. But I do say that it is not enough. 
And I do say also that within the Anglican Church as it 
exists in South Africa today there is enough colour preju 
dice, enough uncharitableness, and enough sheer blind 
ness to lose it its influence over the African people in the 
next generation or less. 

It is this sense of urgency which has led me to a position 
which I know to be in conflict with that of many leading 
Anglicans whose opinion I greatly respect and whose 
friendship I immensely value. It is difficult, looking back, 
to see exactly at what point one knows oneself to be mak 
ing a new decision or taking a new road. All I can say is 
that over the years I took my share in framing and speak 
ing to resolutions of Synod which condemned apartheid 
or which urged advance in opening up opportunity for 



Africans or which called upon the government to redress 
obvious injustices. It was heartening to feel that those Eu 
ropean lay folk, businessmen mostly, who attended Synod 
year by year could so readily be persuaded to vote the 
right way on racial issues. It was a comfort to imagine that 
they represented the ordinary South African "man in the 
street" and to believe that over the years their influence 
would prevail to break down these hideous barriers be 
tween man and man. It was only as the years slipped by 
that I began to wonder whether in fact it meant such 
things at all. Perhaps it was simply a matter of patience. 
That, anyhow, was what most bishops said, and clergy too. 
Perhaps it still is. But I do not believe it, and I cannot act 
or speak as if I did. 

Strangely, it was an incident which in itself stood right 
outside the context of church affairs which I think forced 
me to a different view, shocked me into a new attitude, 
and brought me into some measure of conflict with eccle 
siastical authority. The incident happened on a Sunday 
morning in Sophiatown two or three years ago. 

Already the threat to remove the African people from 
that area had become a reality. A meeting of the residents 
was called, and I was asked to be one of the speakers. The 
Odin Cinema was chosen as the most suitable place for 
the purpose because it was in the very heart of Sophiatown 
and had seating for twelve hundred people. When after 
Mass I arrived in the vestibule, there was already a small 
group of Europeans, two or three men, arguing with some 
of the African and Indian delegates and claiming that as 
they were the C.LD. they were entitled to come into the 
meeting. This I thought to be untrue, but to make quite 
sure I went into a neighbouring shop and rang up a lawyer 
friend of mine who confirmed my opinion. I then returned 



and asked the police to leave. They did so reluctantly; our 
meeting began, and the cinema auditorium was quite full. 

Just after I had spoken there was a commotion at the 
door and a body of police strode in, marched quickly and 
with determination up the aisle and on to the stage, and 
arrested Yusuf Cachalia, a prominent Indian Congress 
leader. I would emphasise that the meeting itself was per 
fectly legal in every respect, and it was fully representa 
tive of the people of Sophiatown: those most deeply af 
fected by the removal scheme. It was, in fact, one of the 
few opportunities available to them for expressing their 
views. Not unnaturally those views were strongly held and 
strongly expressed. To choose such a moment for the 
public arrest, in an atmosphere of tension, of Cachalia was, 
it seemed to me, quite criminal. 

The people rose to their feet in the dark hall, twelve 
hundred of them, and made their anger known as the 
police hurried towards the exit. I was really frightened lest 
that anger should find expression in violence, and I fol 
lowed the police and their prisoner. When we opened the 
door we were confronted with a policeman holding a 
tommy gun at the ready, several more police in the foyer 
with rifles, and, in the street immediately outside, a hun 
dred or more African police armed. All this to arrest one 
man, who afterwards was released, as no charge could be 
laid against him. The people inside the cinema were in an 
angry mood and could very easily have rushed the doors 
on to the tommy gun. It would have been a massacre. I 
protested to the officer in charge and was threatened with 
arrest myself. "If you will call off those police I will see 
that the meeting ends peacefully; otherwise I cannot be 
responsible for the consequences." Eventually the police 
drove away and we finished our meeting. 



Again a simple enough incident and one which, I sup 
pose, could be paralleled very easily in other countries. 
But I had seen and felt in those moments the terrifying 
spectre of the police state. It was all too much like Nazi 
Germany at its beginning. There was the fierce breath of 
totalitarianism and tyranny in every attitude, every move 
ment of the police. . . . 

I have attended many meetings since then at which the 
Special Branch of the C.LD. has been present. But that 
Sunday morning at Sophiatown brought home to me as 
nothing else had done how very far along the road we had 
already travelled. Against this, Synod resolutions and 
episcopal utterances simply would not do. It seemed to me 
then, as it seems even more certain to me now, that the 
only way to meet this thing as a Christian was to try at 
least to arouse the Christian conscience throughout the 
world. For me, the arrest of Yusuf Cachalia, therefore, was 
significant far beyond itself. And from that day I have 
felt the need to use every means open to me of making 
known abroad, as well as within South Africa, the fearful 
lengths to which we have already gone in the suppression 
of personal liberties. It seemed to me then, as it seems to 
me at this moment, that the Church was largely unaware 
of all this or, if aware, was not prepared to take any strenu 
ous action. But in appealing to the Christian conscience 
overseas, through the press, one immediately laid oneself 
open to attack as disloyal to South Africa. I cannot in fact 
accept that criticism, for I feel convinced that the Chris 
tian has a loyalty which stands above far above such 

Apart from the need to arouse the Christian conscience 
in the world, there was in my heart, from that moment, in 
clear and unmistakable form, the desire to identify myself 



with the African people in their struggle for human rights 
and personal freedom. This I tried to express a little later 
at a meeting of the African National Congress in the city. 
But identification means more than words, more than 
speeches. For the Christian, so it seems to me, it is part of 
the life of faith itself. It is this mystery of identification 
which finds its very expression in the stable of Bethlehem: 
God, Almighty and Eternal, identifying Himself with man 
at his most helpless, with man in his utter littleness and 
poverty. Surely, if the Incarnation means anything at all, 
it must mean the breaking down of barriers not by words 
but by deed, by act, by identification. On Maundy Thurs 
day, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, when the Mass 
of the day is ended the priest takes a towel and girds him 
self with it; he takes a basin in his hands and, kneeling in 
front of those who have been chosen, he washes their feet 
and wipes them, kissing them also one by one. So he takes, 
momentarily, the place of his Master. The centuries are 
swept away, the Upper Room in the stillness of the night 
is around him: "If I, your Lord and Master, have washed 
your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's f eet." I have 
knelt in the sanctuary of our lovely church at Rosettenville 
and washed the feet of African students, stooping to kiss 
them. In this also I have known the meaning of identifica 
tion. The difficulty is to carry the truth out into Johannes 
burg, into South Africa, into the world. 

The Episcopal Synod of the Church of the Province of 
South Africa meeting in 1954 put forward a statement in 
which the bishops said: "It has been stated that the fact 
that normally Europeans and Africans worship in different 
Church buildings is itself an acknowledgement of the 
principle of segregation. This is not so. Both linguistic and 
geographical reasons make it natural that normally Afri- 



cans and Europeans should worship in different places. 
But an African member of the Church is at liberty to wor 
ship in any Church which he may desire and no one has 
any authority to exclude any Churchman of any race from 
any of our Churches, if he presents himself there for the 
purpose of worship." In other words, there is no colour bar 
in church. 

Let us look at the facts. It is true, of course, that in any 
of the towns or cities the African people will live in loca 
tions apart from their European masters. And, obviously, 
if the Church is to do its job in caring for them, churches 
must be built in the locations and will therefore be "Afri 
can" churches. But it is also true that in every large town 
there are thousands of African domestic servants who live 
where they work in the back-yard rooms built on to every 
European house. These also are Christians. But it is rare 
indeed for them to attend church at the same time as their 
employers. Special services, at an early hour in the morn 
ing, are sometimes provided for them. They can meet to 
gether to worship the same God, to receive the same 
sacraments as the master and "missus," but not in the same 
service. And even this custom can sometimes cause diffi 
culty, as it did when a young priest I know recently sug 
gested to his Church Council that an "African" Mass might 
be allowed at 5:30 A.M. once a month or so in his church. 
Half the Council resigned in protest. 

It would be true, I believe, to say that in the vast major 
ity of Anglican parishes in European areas the presence in 
church of any number of Africans at any service would be 
greatly resented and would cause serious trouble. Only in 
the Cape, where there is a very large coloured population, 
are "mixed" congregations a regular feature of church life. 
It is true that on special occasions, such as an ordination 



or "Synod Sunday" in the cathedral, the pattern is different. 
Black and white are present and communicate together. 
It is true that in some parishes where the priest is coura 
geous and alive to the situation some real progress is being 
made. But it is not true, and it is wrong to pretend that it 
is, that "geographical and linguistic" difficulties are the 
basic cause of these racial divisions within the Church. In 
the Church, as outside it, it is prejudice and fear and racial 
ism itself which operate to confound the principles and 
ideals of episcopal pronouncements. Only if we face this 
fact and make no excuses can we hope to abolish the colour 
bar within the Church. But it is more than probable that 
in doing so we shall lose great numbers of our European 
Christians. It will be better so. For there is, in this matter 
especially, no time to lose. Already, in the African com 
munity, we are watching the emergence of a sectarian 
Christianity based partly on African nationalism, partly on 
a revolt against the disciples of organised Christianity, 
partly on the terrible example of disunity shown by white 
"churches" of many denominations. Moreover, in an in 
creasingly secularised educational system, there is plenty 
of scope for that kind of pseudo-scientific attack on religion 
which is common to modern society everywhere. Young 
Africa is not immune. And when it is possible to point to a 
failure in Christian witness on the colour issue, as it most 
certainly is, then young Africa is alert to recognise such 
failure and by it to condemn the religion which allows it 
to happen. 

It is, I think, significant that the Roman Catholic and 
Anglican missions in the urban areas of Johannesburg ( and 
I presume in other cities also ) have been alone in encourag 
ing their European priests and religious to live within the 
area itself. Significant because in this way they have been 



able to share far more fully the problems and the pain of 
their people even if, by the accident of colour, they have 
not been able totally to identify themselves with them. It 
is significant, too, because there has been far less breaking 
away, far less schismatic division in these two bodies than 
in the Protestant denominations, which generally rely on 
African ministers, supervised from outside by European 

The point I am trying to make is a very simple one, yet 
I think it needs making in every possible way. It is that the 
Church is facing a challenge which it must meet now and 
which it cannot meet effectively with official pronounce 
ments alone. Only the white Christians of South Africa can 
truly meet that challenge; not the bishops, not the clergy, 
but the ordinary lay folk who are the Church. And I do 
not believe that they are meeting it; I do not believe that 
they really know a challenge exists. In fact, the most dis 
heartening thing about the Christian situation in this 
country is the absence of any deep sense of urgency. It is 
not that white Christians are bad, very far from it. It is 
simply that they fail to see the relevance of their faith to 
social problems. Just as in the England of Wilberforce 
there were those who defended slavery from the highest 
motives; just as there were, in the time of the Industrial 
Revolution, Christian leaders who acquiesced in child la 
bour in the cotton mills and all the other horrifying evils 
which Charles Dickens exposed-so in South Africa there 
is an apathy and a patience within the Church towards 
the evil of racialism which is harder to bear and far more 
difficult to break through than deliberate malice and wick 

It is not easy to condemn apartheid and the doctrine of 
white supremacy in the state if it exists and is suffered to 



exist within the Church. The answer to the question: Will 
the African remain Christian in the years to come? depends 
more than anything else on the answer made to the vital 
question of colour within the Church now. So I return to 
that incident in the long history of the Church, a moment 
when the wrong answer would have in fact destroyed it 
as the instrument of God's love to all men. St. Paul with 
stood St. Peter "to the f ace" over the issue of the admission 
of the Gentiles. He won his point. Had he not done so, the 
Christian Church would have remained a Jewish sect and 
presumably would have died, as other sects have died, 
many centuries ago in the hinterland of Antioch or Rome. 
It is this sense of urgency which has led me to believe that 
the only effective weapon to use is the conscience of Chris 
tendom itself; that it is not wrong, therefore, to appeal to 
Christians the world over to condemn racial discrimi 
nation wherever it exists. When in the early thirties the 
Nazis began to persecute the Jews, the official voice of the 
Church was silent. The Niemollers and the Faulhabers 
called too late upon the Christian world. After all, a mod 
ern state has every propaganda instrument at its com 
mand; the Church has the voice and the pen of its leaders 

I have become convinced that within South Africa, it is 
now impossible to mobilise a sufficiently powerful offensive 
to counteract the forces which operate so strongly, so sub 
tly, and so irrationally against us. Indeed, sometimes it is 
desperately hard not to be caught up oneself in the toils 
of the situation, not to wonder whether one is oneself ut 
terly mistaken in trying to swim against the tide. Perhaps 
this book of mine may bring some answer and some com 
fort, or at least the reassurance which one longs for in lone 
liness. But whether it does or not, I must clear my own 



conscience. This does not mean the condemnation of others 
who think and act and speak differently. I do not for one 
moment question the integrity of their faith. But for me 
there is only one really vital issue confronting the Church 
in South Africa, and I do not think the Church is facing it 
as boldly as it should, as it must, if it is to be true to its 
Master and to itself. Idealism, like patriotism, is not 

V. The Tsotsi 

Others may sing of the wine and the wealth and 

the mirth, 

The portly presence of potentates goodly in girth; 
Mine be the dirt and the dross, the dust and scum 

of the earth! 

JOHN MASEFDELD, "A Consecration" 

"HEY THERE, tsotsi, show me your pass. . . ." 

The boy stopped. He had a parcel in one hand and it 
wasn't easy to get the book quickly enough luckily he had 
it on him. The policeman did not even look inside it. But 
when Joel came to see me it was the abusive term, the con 
temptuous title, tsotsi, that had made its mark more 
surely, too, than a cuff on the ear or a twist of the arm. For 
as it happened, Joel was already near the top of Form 
Three, and the European constable who had stopped him 
had probably left school after the primary standard six. 
At least that is all that is required of police constables in 
South Africa. That is why so often their venom is directed 
at the "educated kaffir," the "cheeky nigger," the "smart 
skellum." And it is not only the police who think that way, 
of course. There was an instance not so long ago when an 
African, standing at a bus stop (second class) dared to put 
on a pair of white gloves. This was so offensive to a group 
of European lads waiting for their bus (first class) nearby 



that they set on him, had him down in the gutter, and 
kicked him so that he died. 

"Tsotsi"-* what does it mean? It is a familiar enough 
name in every urban African township, familiar enough to 
have become a term of abuse when applied by a European 
to an educated African, a term of contempt tinged with 
fear when used by one African boy of another. Yet it means 
something of quite tremendous importance to all those 
whose job is to care for the young of Christ's flock. Every 
country in its large cities has its "cosh-boys," its "wide- 
guys," its "gangsters," its "Teddys." And the tsotsi, the real 
genuine tsotsi, is all of these, though first and foremost he 
is just a boy. The origin of the name is interesting, for it is 
a corruption of "zoot suit," and the tsotsi, like the Teddy- 
boy, is supposedly characterised by the cut of his clothes. 
In this case, because not many African youngsters can 
claim to have clothes which are "cut," the tight-fitting 
drainpipe trousers are the distinctive mark. But today in 
Alexandra and Sophiatown and Pimville and Moroka it is 
not the clothes, it is the number, the gang, the weapons 
which are so terrifyingly evident. The tsotsi is youth rotting 
away and rotting with fear the society around him. He is 
problem number one in urban Africa. 

One Saturday evening in Sophiatown I was on the stoep 
of the mission house after Evensong and Rosary. A boy 
came running across the school playground, one of the 
servers. "It's the principal, Father, come please quickly, 
he's been stabbed. ..." I got someone to help me with 
the stretcher (we always kept it handy and often had to 
use it) and went as quickly as I could, the boy directing 
me, to a house hard by the school Elias Mokoetsi lay on 
the stoep, unconscious and with blood staining his open 
shirt, There was little excitement. We got him on to the 



stretcher and down to the clinic. The doctor gave him an 
injection. There was one tiny wound in the breast, no more 
than a quarter of an inch long. But it was enough, for it 
was just over his heart. He died within ten minutes. On 
Sunday after High Mass a woman asked to see me; with 
her was a young lad of nineteen, who said, 'Tve come to 
give myself up to you, Father. I stabbed the principal. I 
didn't mean to kill him, Father. He hit me and I got mad. 
I had a knife. . . ." 

One evening I was driving back from preaching to a 
European congregation on the other side of the town. It 
was a winter evening also, and at ten o'clock at night there 
were not many people about. I was tired, thankful to be 
getting back to the mission and to bed, not thinking about 
much else, I expect. But as I drove along the main road 
which makes the boundary of Sophiatown and Martindale, 
I saw under a lamppost a man lying in the dust He was 
close to the tram lines. There was no one near him. Almost 
I drove on. Drunks on Sunday night were not imcommon 
in that part of the world, and I was tired. But something, 
perhaps Someone, made me stop and get out of the car 
and go to him to try to help him. He was dead. This time 
it was a bicycle spoke with one end sharpened which had 
pierced his heart. 

Alfred Vukela was one of those lads whom one could 
only possibly describe as "vital/* He had been a server for 
many years, ever since he was a child. But he was not at all 
the copybook type of altar boy. Indeed, I have never known 
an African who was. Amongst other things, he belonged 
to a concert party which specialised in hot jazz and jiving, 
in tap dancing and all the rest. In this way he added a 
little to his earnings. He was in a good job, and his boss 
was really fond of him. He had just married, and his wife 



had had her first baby. He was walking home one night 
with a friend when he suddenly heard someone behind 
him. Before he could even turn round he felt a blow be 
tween the shoulder blades and a sharp pain. When he came 
to, he found he was flat on the ground; he could not get 
up, he could not move his legs. He had been stabbed in the 
back, and a motor nerve had been cut. Today, three years 
later, he still sits in a room somewhere in the back of 
Sophiatown. He will not jive again. 

I have given these three illustrations because they are 
the ones that come most readily to mind; not, alas, because 
they are the only incidents I can remember of the terrible 
and terrifying destructiveness of the tsotsi. 

Woven into the whole pattern of fear, which is the pat 
tern of so much of South Africa's life, is this fear which is 
ever present in the locations and townships of the Reef. 
And it is a by-product of a whole attitude of mind, of some 
thing which could undoubtedly be cured if it were not for 
the irrational and morbid obsession over colour which so 
entirely petrifies constructive work in the social field. For 
the tsotsi is symbolic of something other than a simple so 
cial evil, common to all countries. He is, I believe, more 
than a juvenile delinquent, more than a "case" for an ap 
proved school. Like them, he is aggressively anti-social; 
but, unlike them, he has a profound reason, as a rule, for 
being so. He is the symbol of a society which does not care* 
He is in revolt against the frustration which apparently 
cannot be cured, cannot be relieved, He turns upon his own 
people and uses his knife against them because he is 
caught in that trap from which there is no escape the trap 
which Nature seems to have set for him by giving him a 
black skin. Alan Paton, in his picture of Absalom, has given 
one story of the typical tsotsi boy. But it is not the only 



one; it is not the most common. Absalom comes up from 
the country to find his sister and is caught in the life of the 
city, bewildered by it, his standards destroyed by it, and 
he himself eventually becomes the criminal and the victim 
of it. No doubt there are many such. But the tsotsi I know 
best has never set foot in the country. He is a "cockney" 
by birth, and so, possibly, are his parents before him. The 
only life he knows is the life of the town. The only stand 
ards he recognises are those provided by an urban, indus 
trialised society. He would be as much a stranger in the 
kraals of Zululand as I would be in Tibet. What is it, then, 
which makes him what he is? How can it be that that 
lovely little boy of six, with the sparkling eyes and the 
friendly smile, has become a killer at sixteen? And how is 
it that there are so many like him? So many that, in the 
most modern location in South Africa, people are scared to 
go out of their homes at night except in groups. 

In the first place, it must be recognised that social wel 
fare work in South Africa amongst Africans is hamstrung 
from the first not so much by lack of money as by the atti 
tude of mind which racialism inevitably produces. The 
most common phrase, I suppose, in use in this country is 
"the native problem/' By this phrase everything is summed 
up. It is an abstractionand so, to the average white man, 
is the African. It is a "problem"-never an opportunity. In 
some strange way one has to avoid thinking of black men 
as if they were persons at all. And so the tsotsi is just part 
of this great abstraction too. He is not a boy who has gone 
wrong; he is a native "skellum." He doesn't belong to a 
family with a father and mother and brothers and sisters- 
he is a "problem." White society has to solve the "problem" 
if it can, because crime is an expensive and unedifying 
commodity. But white society should not be asked to take 



a personal interest in it, still less provide money for its 
solution for it lies altogether outside the sphere of human 
relations. It belongs to that other world, which it is easiest 
to forget. This was brought home to me very forcibly by 
the murder of Elias Mokoetsi and by another incident 
which I shall try to describe. 

When it became known that Elias had been stabbed to 
death for no reason, the people of Sophiatown were fiercely 
angry. He had been one of the most respected men in the 
township: he had taught their children for many years; he 
was a gentleman. When his funeral took place some six 
thousand people turned out to show how they honoured 
him. As on so many occasions in my life in Sophiatown, I 
felt a great sense of pride that in all that crowd I, a white 
man, was allowed to perform the last rites. My priesthood 
was so much more important than my colour. After it was 
all over a deputation came to the mission and asked me to 
arrange a meeting with the police. The people, they said, 
were determined to protect themselves if the police could 
not or would not protect them, During the war, when 
European policemen had joined the forces and were in 
short supply, there had been an African Civic Guard. It 
was this which they wished to revive. We had the meeting 
a few days later, and Colonel X., commandant of the dis 
trict, arrived with some subordinates to hear what the 
deputation wanted, 

An old Zulu who had lived in the area for many years 
stood up and put the case strongly yet with courtesy, "Our 
people know the criminals better than the police can do. 
When the police come the people are fearful; they even 
hide the tsotsis* They fear the police more than they fear 
the tsotsis. But we know where they stay. We are not satis 
fied tibat the police protect us. , * .* 


Colonel X. called for his record books. "Now look, man/' 
he said, "let us take the year 1942. In that year there was a 
Civic Guard in Sophiatown. In the month of March there 
were only . . . there were only . . ." He paused and pre 
pared himself to make a startling pronouncement. "Only 
twelve arrests." He turned to the old Zulu. "What is the 
use of a Civic Guard if it can only arrest twelve people in 
a month?" 

"I think," said the Zulu, "that it shows that the Civic 
Guard was doing its job." 

To Colonel X., however, the only criterion of police effi 
ciency was in the number of arrests made. It did not matter 
that 70 per cent would be for pass offences, not for crime 
at all. So we did not get our Civic Guard then or ever, and 
the tsotsis continued to flourish in the dark streets and in 
the back yards which the police dared not try to reach. 
Incidentally, when Elias Mokoetsi's murderer was tried it 
was discovered that he had six previous convictions, several 
of them of a serious nature, although he was only nineteen. 
The charge was reduced to culpable homicide. He was 
sentenced to one year in jail. So far as I know, he is still 
walking the streets of Sophiatown. After all, it was only 
another stabbing in a native area, part of the "problem." 
Why worry too much? Neither the boy who murdered nor 
the man who was murdered had real value as a person. 
Both were natives: a different category, another species 
living in a world apart. 

The second incident was this. I remember sitting in my 
office one Saturday morning when I heard a noise of run 
ning and a hoarse voice shouting in Afrikaans words which 
I could not distinguish but which were words of anger. In 
the garden outside the front door some six or seven boys 
were standing together, and a young European constable, 



his hand on his revolver, was bawling at them and was 
obviously in a furious rage. "What it's all about?" I asked. 

"These boys where are their passes?" 

I told him that they were schoolboys, home for the holi 
days, all known to me, and I asked him to get out of the 
mission. With the help of one of my colleagues I took his 
number and went, not very hopefully, to report the inci 
dent to the senior officer at the station. Not long afterwards, 
the answer to the inquiry that I had asked for was brought 
to me at the mission by Captain E., an English-speaking 
police officer whom I had met before. It was his day off, 
and he was not very pleased at having to spend part of it 
on the job. The reason for the incident, he explained, was 
that the constable had been chasing a suspect and thought 
he might have taken refuge in the mission. "But anyway, 
Father, you know yourself that 70 per cent of the people 
in this place are criminals." I suggested that if that was the 
official attitude of the police they were not very likely to 
win the trust and confidence of Sophiatown. 

It was, to me at least, an interesting comment on the 
whole sad situation. Just one more indication of the same 
basic mental attitude. The native is a problem; he is never 
a person. He is, more often than not, a criminal who cannot 
be trusted even if he is apparently only a schoolboy. You 
must bawl at him, threaten him, handcuff him that is the 
treatment he really understands, And if it is not enough, 
there is always the sjambok. It will be said that this is an 
exaggeration. I only wish it were, I have told it as accu 
rately as I can remember it, not because as was once said 
to me, "You hate the uniform of the South African police," 
but because I know that this attitude is in itself a reason 
for the tsotsi. It is not the only reason^but it is a very 



fundamental one; and it is expressive, I think, of that whole 
mental attitude which belongs to white South Africa. 

In a recent comprehensive survey of one of the African 
townships it was discovered (though those of us who lived 
there knew it from firsthand experience ) that the average 
family had to face a gap between income and expenditure 
of over two pounds ten shillings per month. How is this 
gap to be closed? In the answer to that question there lies 
another answer to the reason for the tsotsi. It is poverty. 
In Johannesburg more than half the total population of the 
city is non-European. Apart from those thousands of mi 
grant labourers employed by the mines and living in com 
pounds, quite separate from the locations of the city, there 
are at least 350,000 Africans who belong to Johannesburg 
and upon whose labour Johannesburg depends. Taking the 
survey I have referred to as an accurate index ( and I have 
every reason to believe that it is), it would not be an ex 
aggeration to say that at least half the African families in 
the city must live below the bread line UNLESS THEY CAN 


African families thank God are large as a rule. The 
average number of children in a family is anything be 
tween four and seven. Quite often it is more. So, clearly, if 
they are to be fed and clothed, it is necessary for both par 
ents to go out to work. With their strong sense of "family," 
this is an unnatural and most undesirable thing for the 
African people. But it is nowadays an accepted thing also. 
And it might be all right if there were compulsory educa 
tion, if the parents could be sure that their children were 
in school whilst they were out at work. That is the one 
thing they cannot be sure of. In the urban areas about one 
child in three can find a place in school. The remaining 
two thirds of the child population has only the street or 


the empty room for its long day. And in places like Sophia- 
town or Alexandra Township that is not so good. 

"Father, I've come to give you my child, you must take 
care of him. Father he is naughty, very, very naughty. I 
can do nothing with him. He dodges school. He is a loafer/ 
He stays out at night. . . /" How often I have heard these 
words? And they are spoken over the head of a child of 
eight or ten. He is "out of control." And he really is out of 
control. I know that the chances are that he is already with 
a gang. Probably he has taken part in quite a few minor 
burglaries fruit or sweets or cigarettes from the "China" 
shops. When I look down at him I can see a hardness al 
ready forming round his mouth, in his eyes. And there is 
so little I can hope to do. "Father must get him to school/' 
But all the schools are full and overfull. "Father must send 
him away from Johannesburg to a boarding school.* But 
there are no boarding schools for boys of his age and of 
his standard in education. "Father must take him to 
Diepkloof* (the reformatory which Alan Paton once super 
vised and from which he learnt about Absalom and old 
Kumalo) but Diepkloof already has seven hundred boys 
and in any case cannot take any boy unless he is com 
mitted by a magistrate. 

There is too much competition; there are too few proba 
tion officers. Above all, there are too few people who even 
begin to care. Sometimes in Johannesburg at night when 
the cinema crowds are flooding out on to the pavements 
I have watched African childrensome of them certainly 
not more than eight years oldhanging about the lighted 
entrances, darting through the legs of the emerging throng, 
watching the Greek shops with their brilliant windows. 
They are filthy dirty. They are hungry. They hold out their 
hands "Penny, baas, penny, baas" and sometimes they 



get what they ask and run off in search of more. But no 
body cares what happens to them or from where they 
come. Nobody cares that these children, who belong to 
someone, somewhere, will soon be in those same Johannes 
burg streets with knives or with stolen revolvers; will be, 
in fact, the tsotsis of tomorrow. White South Africa lives 
in fear, but it does surprisingly little to remove the causes. 
It prefers burglarproofing, private watchmen, the revolver 
by the bedside to any kind of constructive approach to the 
problem of the tsotsi. And if half the money which is spent 
on keeping pass offenders in prison were spent instead on 
building schools or equipping boys' clubs, the crime wave 
would soon become less menacing. 

There is, however, another cause of "fcofei-ism." It is il 
legitimacy. And this is also something which white South 
Africa views with a sickening complacency and with a 
Pharisaical shrug of the shoulders. "These kaffirs. Breed 
like rabbits." Or, "My 'girl' has a lot of boy friends, of 
course. But what can you do? It's their nature." Or, "She's 
pregnant again. She'll have to go. I can't have an infant in 
the house. What a nuisance these girls are. I'd almost 
sooner do the work myself." Or, more rarely on the tele 
phone, "Father, I don't know you and you don't know me. 
I've got a girl here, and we've had her working for us for 
a long time. Now she's got two children and they're grow 
ing up. I can't keep them in the servant's room. Is there a 
school or an institution? . . . Nothing? . . . Oh, but surely 
there's some place. ... I thought you'd be sure to know 
of somewhere. . . . Can't you help at all?" No, I cannot. 
I cannot because the thing is far too big, and its roots go 
far too deep in the rottenness of a social order which white 
South Africa tolerates and, more than tolerates, desires. I 
cannot, because in the whole Union there is only one in- 



stitution that will take pregnant African girls and their 
babies, and that is always overfull. I am its chairman, and 
I know. I cannot, because you, the "missus," accept your 
servant for the work she will do; you do not give a thought 
to where she comes from, how she lives, or what she needs 
in the way of protection. You say (how many hundred 
times have I heard you?) that you do everything for her 
and she is ungrateful. What you mean is that you pay her 
her wages, give her enough to eat, sometimes give her 
clothing which you can no longer wear yourself. But what 
of her life in that back room at the bottom of your yard, 
completely separate (by law) from the house? That is, for 
the time being, her home. The door does not lock properly 
and the windows are not barred. There is no security. 

In the white suburbs of Johannesburg there are thou 
sands of African servants of both sexes. They must live 
sufficiently close to their work to be on call six days out 
of seven and seven nights out of seven. But they must live 
in kayos single rooms of varying quality built away from 
the house. There are no recreation centres of any kind in 
any of the European suburbs for African servants. From 
time to time attempts have been made by small groups of 
liberal-minded people to do something about this. On ev 
ery occasion the attempt has been defeated. "It will bring 
down the value of our property. It will bring in all the na 
tives from the next suburb. It will encourage crime.*" 

Not so long ago we had seven acres of land next door 
to our priory in Rosettenville, today a European suburb, 
though when we chose it for our mission it was in open 
country, miles from the centre of the city. We could not 
use this land as a football field for our schoolboys, though 
we should have liked to do so. It was coveted by our Eu 
ropean neighbours for the valuable site that it could be. 



We offered it to the City Council of Johannesburg to be 
used as a recreation centre for the African domestic serv 
ants in the neighbourhood, sixteen thousand of them. 
The offer was made public. Immediately a Vigilance Com 
mittee was formed. Meetings were held throughout the 
suburb. A petition with two thousand signatories was or 
ganised. We were told that all our windows would be 
broken and our priory attacked if we proceeded with the 
plan to sell. I was present at the meeting in the City Hall 
when the Vigilance Committee made its formal protest to 
the City Council. "Three hundred natives are imported ev 
ery day by bus into the priory. It is a hide-out for crimi 
nals/* It was only an official visit by the city councillors 
concerned which prevented the matter going any further- 
that and our decision, in the interest of our own continued 
existence as a mission, not to press the issue. 

Indeed nothing can so swiftly arouse the wrath of white 
suburbia as a plan for providing African servants with 
recreational facilities. Protest meetings are planned with 
great swiftness and are attended in force. The English im 
migrant who has, for the first time in his life, a servant and 
a car is perhaps more ready to support such a protest than 
his Afrikaner neighbour. But both are united in a fierce 
determination to prevent their suburb becoming attractive 
to the native servant they employ. So, in fact, the "girl" or 
the "garden-boy" live in their separate rooms. But they do 
not always, in the hours when their work is done, stay by 
themselves or sleep alone. And their employers do not care 
what goes on, provided that it does not involve a police 
raid, provided that the morning tea is brought in on time, 
provided there is no "cheekiness." 

What it really means is easy to understand. It means that 
Eva, who has a home in Sophiatown, or Grace, who lives 


in Orlando, soon has a babe in her womb, loses her job, 
returns disgraced to her family and there is another child 
whose father is unknown, another child who, in all proba 
bility, Granny will have to look after, another child who, 
in the coming years, may be "nobody's business/' These 
are the children who run the streets when they ought to 
be in school if they could get into school. These are the 
tsotsis of tomorrow. And white South Africa shrugs its 
shoulders and complains that servants are not what they 
used to be. Nobody cares. Except, of course, the municipal 
authorities and the government. But they care in a strange 
and cynical way. They are determined, for instance, that 
the life of domestic servants shall be regulated and con 
trolled. There must be an absolute enforcement of the law 
of registration. The moral law is another matter altogether. 
So we have reached the stage, in white Johannesburg, 
where a man and his wife, married by Christian rites, may 
not live together as man and wife unless they work for the 
same employer. "Whom God hath joined together, let no 
man put asunder . * ? but don't dare to go and visit each 
other; don't be discovered together in the same room or 
you are liable to arrest for trespass. 

Is it so very surprising if a child, conceived and born in 
illegality, technically nonexistent, according to the law of 
the land a trespasser from birth, becomes in later life a 
rebel against society, black and white? I do not claim that 
every lad who becomes a tsotsi begins his life in this fash 
ion; nor do I believe that it is environment alone which 
makes the criminal There is such a thing as evil; there is 
sin in a fallen world. But I do not exaggerate when I say 
that the tsotsi is a symbol of society which does not care, 
And against that dead, oppressive weight of apathy it is 
so hard to make progress. It would be enough to make any 



priest despair unless he really believed that in the one or 
two who by the grace of God he has rescued there is his 
reward. And even then it is hard to be patient and to per 

It is often said, and with some truth, that the African in 
the towns has lost all the old tribal sanctions and nothing 
has been put in their place. It is also true, however, that 
some of the old customs, transplanted from country to 
town, have an equally disastrous effect. So it is with lobola 
the dowry custom. The young man, before he can marry 
the girl of his choice, must in the country produce a certain 
number of cattle and hand them over (or see that his par 
ents do so) to the parents of the bride. In this way her 
"value" and her security against ill treatment are safe 
guarded. There is an obvious and real point in this, and 
it is akin to many similar customs in other parts of the 
world. But in the towns the cattle becomes money. The 
parents of the girl demand thirty, sixty, or one hundred 
pounds. The boy has to earn or borrow this money. The 
marriage is often delayed unreasonably by the exorbitant 
demands made by the parents, with the result that the boy 
and girl anticipate their marriage, and one more illegiti 
mate child is born. 

It is a subject which is often under debate in missionary 
conferences and the like. On the whole, the conservative 
view prevails, the view of ancient custom. But the younger 
generation of African town dwellers is getting impatient 
and resentful, and probably a change will come. Neverthe 
less, in looking at the tsotsi problem as dispassionately as 
one can, the boy-girl question looms very large. It is pre 
cisely what one would expect, but no less difficult to deal 
with for all that. And some of the most vicious and mean 
of tsotsi crimes, assault on young girls, rape, and stabbing, 



are the result of this unresolved conflict produced by a 
society in transition between the old and the new. Yet, in 
seeing the tsotsi simply as a menace, we are not going to 
do very much to solve the problem of his existence. Be 
hind the menace there is the frustration, the sense of im 
potence, the misdirected energy. And often enough there 
is a real initiative which can and should be used for good. 

Together with the lack of schools, there is in the urban 
areas of our cities a fearful lack of recreational facilities. 
Every European suburb has its playground, its football 
fields, its tennis courts, its golf course, its swimming bath. 
For the African, the most he can expect is a football field 
or two, generally without any proper provision for specta 
tors. Beyond that he has the street or the open, barren 
veldt, and he must use it as he can. 

I remember in Sophiatown one of our young altar boys 
named Tom. Every afternoon when school was over he dis 
appeared. On Saturday he was away all day and some 
times on Sunday too. After a while I discovered that he 
had somehow got himself a golf club and a few balls. By 
caddying at the weekends he not only earned a little 
money and bought his equipment, but he also watched the 
players and learnt golf from them. He and the other lads 
would mark out a "course" on the stretch of rough, tus- 
socky grass which lies between Sophiatown and the Eu 
ropean suburb of Westdene. There they would play every 
afternoon. They still do. But there is no provision any 
where, so far as I know, for African golfers, except on the 
links of their own making. There are twelve public swim 
ming baths and three thousand private pools in Johannes 
burg for the white population. For the Africans there are 
three, and only one of those (whose origin I shall describe 
in another chapter) is really a public bath. 



I suppose that no single sporting event so strengthened 
white South Africa's respect for the African athlete as Jake 
Tulfs boxing triumph when he became flyweight champion 
of the Empire. Jake is an Orlando boy. He had to learn 
his boxing where all Orlando boys learn it, in one of the 
many clubs which flourish there and which flourish in ev 
ery location and township in South Africa. But gymnasium 
space is generally an old, disused garage, or a corrugated- 
iron shed, or just the open space behind someone's house. 
There are, I know, many potential boxing champions, but 
they are not allowed to box against white opponents. It 
was bad enough when on one occasion a European boxer 
of world class was knocked out in a sparring bout, and it 
was revealed two days later that his partner was an African. 

My point is this, and it is so obvious as hardly to be 
worth making: the tsotsi is very largely the product of 
frustration. And much of that frustration is physical: the 
absence of any decent, healthy outlet for his energies in 
recognised sport. It is something of a paradox that South 
Africa, which has such a reputation as a sporting country, 
should so limit its own possibilities by refusing to encour 
age the African in a field where he, too, can excel. It is 
tragic that by its needlessness and lack of imagination it 
is in fact adding just one more cause for fear to the many 
that exist already. 

But in the final analysis none of the things I have tried 
to express is the cause of the tsotsi. The tsotsi is, first and 
foremost, a person, a boy who began life on the same terms 
and with the same background as the majority of African 
boys. Sometimes his home was bad: he was neglected or 
treated cruelly; sometimes his home was good: he was 
spoilt, left to go his own way, went "into a far country, 
and wasted his substance," like the Prodigal in the parable. 



But, if that were all, he would be no more of a problem 
than the juvenile delinquent in every city in every coun 
try in the world. 

In South Africa, in the urban area, in location and town 
ship, at the corners of every street and lurking in every 
dark alley, he is the youth of that place. Or, if that is an 
exaggeration, he is far too noticeable a feature of African 
urban life. He is not the exception but the rule. And the 
only remedy the government can think of is to pick him 
up, charge him under one or another section of the Native 
Urban Areas Act, and deport him to work as a farm la 
bourer. Labour is cheap that way. It is popular, too, with 
the electorate. Work colonies are also being started for the 
same purpose. The assumption is that the tsotsi is a "won't- 
work," a loafer, who has no place in the cities. It is a con 
venient assumption, but is it true? I have said that I regard 
the tsotsi as a symbol as the symbol of a rotten social or 
der, corrupted through and through by the false ideology 
of racialism, of apartheid, of white supremacy. It is because 
for the African boy there is no future, no fulfilment be 
yond that of unskilled labour, or the "tea-boy" job in an 
office, or in the endless subservience of the shop or the 
factory; it is because of this that the African boy becomes 
a tsotsi . 

David, aged twenty-three, had been a qualified teacher 
until the passing of the Bantu Education Act, when he felt 
in conscience that he must leave the profession. I managed 
to get him a job in the packing department of a great store. 
After about three weeks I called him to see me and asked 
how he was getting on. He did not find it easy to talk. He 
felt, no doubt, that as I had got him the job he would be a 
disappointment to me if he confessed to hating it. But in 
the end he said, quite simply and without any bitterness, 


'It's all right, Father, except for that European lady. 
Sometimes, when I have to shift boxes or bales and put 
them on the counter, I have to move an account sheet or 
a weigh-bill from one place to another. Then she shouts 
at me, 'Don't touch that paper! Paper work is white work, 
it's not for natives/" 

"There is no place," says Dr. Verwoerd, "for the native 
in European society above the level of certain forms of la 
bour." We need him for our industry. We need him for our 
national economy. We need him for our very existence as 
a country. But we do not need him for himself. We do not 
need him as a person who has life in front of him life 
stretching down the years and needing colour and warmth 
and light, the colour and warmth and light of fulfilment 
and purpose. Sooner than grant him this we are prepared 
to watch him rot away morally, spiritually, physically even, 
in our rich and splendid cities. The tsotsi is the supreme 
symbol of a society which does not care. His knife and his 
revolver are significant not only for today but for tomor 
row. But to me he is also a boy; he is David and John and 
Israel and Jonas and Peter. And for him and the use that 
he makes of life I shall one day have to answer before the 
judgment seat of God. I cannot cease to care. 


VI. Shanty Town 

Jet nightly pitch my moving tent 
A day's march nearer home. 


NEWCLABE is a straggling suburb separated from Sophia- 
town by the main road which runs through the city to the 
Western Areas and beyond them to the Reef towns of 
Roodepoort and Krugersdorp. And, although it is so much 
a part of Sophiatown, it has a character of its own; a differ 
ent atmosphere hangs like the smoke from its thousand 
braziers over the squalid houses and over the "smart" 
homes which stand side by side in its unplanned and un 
charted streets. 

You can go down any street in Newclare and suddenly, 
without warning and without reason, find that it has pe 
tered out into a field, grimy and grey, but still a field. Or 
you can walk down a narrow alley between houses and dis 
cover an open yard with a row of rooms facing it, doors 
open or half shuttered with old packing cases to keep the 
children in, a single latrine, a single tap, and twenty fam 
ilies making their own community in that restricted and 
narrow plot. Moreover, they will be laughing as they hang 
out the washing. The sickly sweet smell of "kaffir beer" 
will certainly pervade the yard, and in a corner of it the 
brown, dry "sawdust" which is the aftermath of brewing. 



Or you will find in Newclare a gleaming shop front with 
chromium window bars and fluorescent lighting, with 
bales of silk and satin shining on the shelves and the In 
dian owner behind the counter expressive of the very es 
sence of salesmanship. 

We wanted a site for our little Church of St. Francis 
some years ago, and the only plot we could get was at the 
end of a long causeway on a rubbish dump. The church 
had to be built on concrete "stilts," and in consequence its 
floor seems to swing and sway as the congregation moves 
during Mass. On one corner of the township stands the 
great block of Coronation Hospital, a massive brick build 
ing which dominates the scene. Below it is the main rail 
way line, running through a cutting and making a barrier 
between Newclare North and Newclare South. The way 
from one part to the other lies over a single bridge. 

There is another characteristic of the place that you can 
not miss if you are at all familiar with South Africa. It is 
that a great number of the inhabitants, both male and fe 
male, wear, over their ordinary clothes, gay blankets. They 
stand in the doorways, the red or green or blue blankets 
thrown loosely over the shoulder and pinned on one side. 
They are Basotho. In the country from which they come 
every store stocks this special and peculiar dress; every per 
son, man, woman, and child, wears it. It is striking when 
you see it for the first time, and there is a gaiety about the 
colours and the patterns which could never have been 
thought of when the first skins of animals were replaced 
by the products of Witney and elsewhere. Newclare has a 
large Basotho colony, and much of it has been urbanised 
over the years and is a permanent part of the total popula 
tion. The blankets even seem a little more sombre, a little 



more utilitarian than the gaudy things you see against the 
mountains of Basutoland itself. 

In February 1950, Newclare was troubled. There was 
an uneasy and indefinable tension in the place; something 
was stirring beneath that strange surface of slum and open 
space, in those crowded back yards. It broke one weekend 
in riots. Indian shops were set on fire and looted. There 
were fierce clashes with the police who had been sent in 
to deal with the situation. Men were killed, some by bullets, 
some by stones. The House of Assembly began to take no 
tice. The Minister of Justice ordered strong police action. 
There were ugly rumours that an attempt, deliberately 
planned by a small section of Europeans, had been made 
to stir up racial strife between Indian and African, to re 
peat the horrors of the Durban riots, to make it obvious 
that Newclare and the Western Areas in general were a 
threat to the peace of the city. After a month or two of 
such open violence, things calmed down again. Police pa 
trols were much more evident, and Sten guns had be 
come a familiar sight at the bridge between North and 

Then suddenly again in March 1952 the whole area 
flared up. There was a pitched battle one evening that 
month; the combatants were all Africans; eleven were 
killed and ninety-five injured. It was hard to see what was 
happening or why anything was happening at all. Gradu 
ally the true picture emerged and was clarified. A Basotho 
gang, calling themselves the "Russians" (but having noth 
ing whatever to do with the Communist party anywhere), 
had entrenched itself in Newclare South, across the rail 
way line. It operated in strength every weekend, and iU 
menacing existence made life impossible as soon as dark 
ness fell. Its purpose was simple and its methods effective. 




It offered its ' protection" to the people of Newclare below 
the bridge-for a fee. If you refused to be "protected" you 
were threatened; if you refused to yield to threats you were 
attacked: attacked coming home in the twilight from work, 
crossing an open space or even, sometimes, when you went 
into your own yard. And somehow or other the police were 
never there when the "Russians" were active, or they came 
when the immediate trouble was over. 

Newclare South seemed defenceless against this fright 
ening and fantastic blanketed army of thugs. Authority 
ignored every plea from the people, threatened and fearful 
in their homes. Their only hope was self -protection. A Civil 
Guard was formed in Newclare North. Men, armed with 
heavy sticks and moving only in groups of a dozen or so, 
patrolled the streets after sundown. During the week at 
least a measure of security was achieved. But at the week 
end it was much more difficult. Then the "Russians" were 
out in force, made deliberate raids wherever they could, 
and seemed to be able to get away without trouble. The 
Civil Guard redoubled its efforts. People in Sophiatown 
and its neighbouring townships were thankful to find that 
at night they, too, could move about the streets more 
freely. Once again an appeal was made to the authorities 
to allow recognition of the Guard. It was in fact essential, 
if the Guard was to continue, that it should have some 
official status such as it had enjoyed in the war years. There 
were already signs that it might otherwise be used itself 
as a cover for criminal activity. 

In the meanwhile the weekend clashes in Newclare con 
tinued and became more bloody. Domestic servants did 
not turn up for work in the European suburbs, because 
they refused to risk the danger of attack by the gangsters. 
Their employers became interested in the whole situation 



for the first time. The municipality made special regula 
tions for its white social workers. But still, for some strange 
reason which, has remained unexplained to this day, the 
police did not disarm the "Russians." Sisters and nurses at 
the Coronation Hospital could watch the fighting from 
their windows, which looked across towards the bridge. 
They reported that when the clashes occurred and the po 
lice intervened it was not the gangsters who were disarmed 
but their opponents. How true that was I would not know. 
What I do know is that in March the Civil Guard was de 
clared illegal and wound up. 

Two months after that, conditions in South Newclare 
had become so impossible that people began to move out 
of their homes and to erect shacks and shelters in the open, 
over the bridge where at least they were among friends. 
They chose a vacant plot on a corner named Plot 99 or 
"Reno Square," opposite one of the few African cinemas. 
It was a plot which for some purpose or other, long since 
forgotten, had been meant for shops and houses but had 
remained empty whilst the crowded streets surrounding it 
had filled up through the years. It was the size of a foot 
ball field. Within a week two hundred familiesabout 
fifteen hundred people were living there and overflowing 
on to another piece of land, known as the Charles Phillips 
Square. This was a far larger open space, as near as any 
thing in an African area could be to a playground for the 
children only it had no swings or seesaws, just a public 
lavatory in one corner and an iron fence all round it. 

On July 2 the City Council and the police conferred and 
decided that they must forcibly evict the squatters. I had 
already spoken to the mayor on the telephone, and as a 
result of this I was asked to see what I could do to per 
suade the squatters to go back to their homes and face the 



"Russians/* The alternative to this was that they should 
be deported to a place called Hammanskraal, fifty miles 
away beyond Pretoria and in open country. I went as 
swiftly as I could to the camp, taking with me W. B. 
Ngakane, the field officer for the South African Institute 
of Race Relations. It was a very tough proposition: to per 
suade people who had been terrorised out of their homes 
that they must either walk back into the terror or be ex 

As we drove out to Newclare, Ngakane was almost in 
tears. "It is impossible, Father, impossible! What have 
these poor people done? It isn't their fault. It's these 'Rus 
sians/ We know that the Basutoland Government has files 
full of evidence against their leaders. They are criminals, 
gangsters . . . they should be deported/* 

I decided that instead of going to Newclare I would go 
to Pretoria, interview the protectorates' authorities, and see 
what they knew. It seemed simply hopeless to try to do 
anything else. I was confident that the squatters would not 
move, even under threat of eviction and deportation, even 
though it was the beginning of a high-veldt winter and 
their only protection was a hessian sack stretched across 
two sticks, or some flattened biscuit tins nailed together, or, 
if they were lucky, the shelter of one brick wall. That in 
expressible, dogged readiness to endure anything had al 
ready gripped the camp. They had a leader, Dhlamini. 
They would see it through. 

When I got to Pretoria, accompanied by a friend of mine 
in the High Commissioner's Office, I was granted an inter 
view with the Chief Secretary. 

"This afternoon/' he told me, "the Union Native Affairs 
Department asked us the Basutoland Government to de 
port the leaders of the gang. We told them, 'Nothing do- 



ing/ If they want to deal with criminals on their own 
territory it is for them to make the first move, not us." 

For several weeks, apparently, the South African Gov 
ernment had been trying to persuade the High Commis 
sioner to take action, a clear indication that they knew very 
well where the criminals were and who they were. Quite 
rightly, Basutoland had refused to get involved in what 
was, after all, a domestic affair and the concern of the 
Union. Relationships were sufficiently strained between 
the two governments in any case, and it would have been 
quite possible for the Union to accuse Basutoland of "inter 
ference/* She had done it before, over other issues, at the 
U.N. and elsewhere. 

In the meanwhile, the squatter camp grew. The City 
Council decided to apply for an eviction order under the 
Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act. This would have had 
the effect of leaving gangsters in possession and depriving 
the squatters of any hope of return to their homes. It was a 
fantastically unjust decision, and I decided to fight it to 
fight it even though it meant that the squatter camp, with 
all the inevitable hardships it must entail, would remain 
and would grow. It was a difficult decision to make, and 
we had very little time to organise. The application to the 
magistrate was due to be heard on the following morning, 
and when I arrived at the camp at eight-thirty in the morn 
ing I found Dhlamini standing, weary after a night of 
watching, outside one of the hessian shelters. 
"Have you got a lawyer?" 
"I have got a lawyer Mr. Lowenberg." 
"Have you told him about the meeting this morning?" 
Dhlamini looked at me in perplexity. It was impossible 
to explain the intricacies of legal proceedings to him when 
he had so heavy a burden to carry. He must have felt like 



Moses on the first day of the Exodus, His people were be 
hind him, but they were weary and they had little to look 
forward to save discomfort and more weariness. 

I rang up Lowenberg, explained the situation as fully as 
I could, then made a dash for the Magistrates* Court, 
where die hearing was already in progress. I was fifteen 
minutes late, and Lowenberg was nowhere to be seen. It 
looked as though the eviction would go by default. There 
was no doubt that both the police and the City Council 
could put up a strong case. I was told I had no legal stand 
ing and could say nothing. The minutes ticked by. Still no 
Lowenberg. I was getting desperate, when at last the door 
opened and he came in with a brief-case but, as I well 
knew, with no brief. He managed to persuade the magis 
trate that an adjournment was necessary, as he had not 
been able to collect all the evidence he needed. He did 
the same thing again when the hearing reassembled in the 
afternoon. We had a whole long weekend in which to pre 
pare our case. It was just sufficient. 

On the following Tuesday the magistrate granted what 
was in fact to be a six months' reprieve, a six months' pe 
riod in which the local authority must try to persuade the 
government to take action against the "Russian" leaders 
and restore law and order in Newclare and the squatters 
to their homes. 

In the meanwhile the African National Congress began 
to collect evidence from the people who had been driven 
out of Newclare South. Cases were prepared. The police 
were given chapter and verse for incident after incident. 
I myself checked up on the facts by visiting the "Russian" 
zone and seeing the houses and the rooms left empty by 
the squatters, some of them still empty, most occupied by 
the gangsters. The authorities took no action. Newclare, 



in effect, became organised into two armed camps, with a 
bridge in between which was the scene of fighting over the 
weekends. The Civil Guard operated round the squares 
where the squatters were; Dhlamini set up a "headquar 
ters"; over two thousand people began a new and bitter 
life, as the winds whistled through their pathetic card 
board walls and the shacks jostled one another for a yard 
or two of space. In the meanwhile the authorities argued. 
The "Russians" stayed. The children began to get sick. 

Quite close to Reno Square our mission had built a small 
nursery school, and we decided that we should use it at 
night for the squatters' children, to try to save them from 
the worst of the winter cold. I appealed for blankets and 
for the money to buy warm clothes. The press supported 
my appeals, and night after night in the Star we were able 
to focus attention on the camp. During the whole six 
months I collected little more than three hundred pounds. 

It was whilst the squatter camp in Newclare existed in 
its misery that the tornado hit Albertynville. As I have 
written elsewhere, within three days thousands of pounds 
of clothing and food were contributed. I have always felt 
that this was an interesting comment on the conscience of 
white Johannesburg. Stirred to immediate and most gen 
erous action by a tornado, it could remain utterly impervi 
ous to what was happening day after day to hundreds of 
its own African citizens in its midst. It was not that Johan 
nesburg did not know of the Newclare tragedy; it was that 
by some strange deadening of sensitiveness, some blurring 
and blinding of insight, Johannesburg did not care. Or was 
it really, as it is with each one of us, that it is sometimes 
easier to be deaf to the voice of conscience altogether than 
to allow even the whisper of its breath to reach one's ears? 

However it was, the camp remained and spread. Reno 



Square was as densely populated as any area in the world; 
two thousand people lived on a football field. From the 
shacks men went off to their work each day. The women 
could not leave their homes for fear of losing their posses 
sions; there was no security and no privacy of any sort. 
One would stoop down under the low flap of tarpaulin 
which served as a door. When one's eyes got used to the 
sudden gloom, a double bed, an open brazier, a pile of 
blankets, a gramophone, an old and battered trunk would 
come into gradual focus. And, cooking over the fire or 
stretched on the bed, there would be the mother of the 
family and two or three children with her. Even in the 
nightmare conditions which the days and nights of winter 
made so desperate, there was a real though pathetic at 
tempt at order and cleanliness. But the danger of an epi 
demic was real, and indeed it was a constant fight to keep 
the babies from gastroenteritis and the like. 

The legal battles dragged on. I spent a good deal of time 
trying to organise what comfort and shelter I could at the 
nursery school. Some European women volunteered to 
help in preparing meals for the children. Our African care 
taker and his wife gave all their time to the task. I used 
to spend my evenings bathing the small ones and wrapping 
them up in their warm blankets. It was a wonderful ex 
periencethe gradual unfolding of confidence and trust 
which it produced, the sense of being expected each eve 
ning at bedtime, the grubby hands thrust into mine, and 
the noisy chatter and laughter. I shall never forget the 
nights at Newclare; they have left a mark upon me which 
I treasure and shall treasure always. 

Perhaps I can best express what I mean by describing 
one small incident, one amongst many, and that not par 
ticularly exciting or wonderful except in South Africa, I 



had been putting the younger boys to bed about fifty of 
them on the floor, rolled up in blankets. By way of custom 
we always knelt and said a prayer together the Kara oa 
rona (Our Father) and Hail Mary at least. Then I visited 
each one before putting out the light. As I was passing 
Jacob's blanket he suddenly flung it off him and knelt up, 
a little naked figure with sparkling eyes, and pulled my 
hand down to his lips and kissed it. Then, without a word, 
he curled up in his blanket and fell asleep. It sounds so 
tame, telling it now. And to those who read this book and 
who have not known South Africa, perhaps it sounds point 
less or merely sentimental. I do not know. All I know is 
that, in a land where every plan, every policy, every move 
ment is directed towards separation between black and 
white, a moment like that is as rare and as unreal as faery. 
Indeed, looking back over the past twelve years, I think 
the truth which has come home to me more forcibly than 
any other is that of the appalling loss which white South 
Africa suffers without knowing it, without believing that 
it is a loss at all. "'Tis ye, 'tis your estranged faces that 
miss the many-splendoured thing . . /* "The many splen- 
doured thing" of a human relationship which is disre 
garded, disapproved of, and discarded every day. Coming 
back home from the city to Sophiatown of an evening and 
being sure of a greeting, not from one but from half a dozen 
people; children smiling and running to the car with 
"Morning, Father," at all hours of the day or night; a 
warmth and a friendliness about you because you be- 
longed-these are the intangible things that are known 
only to us who have lived in places like Sophiatown. Or, 
again, in Johannesburg itself, being certain on any day, 
somewhere or other, to meet friends: an errand-boy who 
this morning served your Mass, a messenger in one of the 



offices who is on the Church Council, or just one of your 
own flock about his business. Strange indeed that such 
chance encounters should warm the heart! I cannot im 
agine that in a London street one would have that feeling. 
It is because in Johannesburg the white and the black 
worlds which jostle one another on the same pavement are 
yet farther apart than the stars themselves. And present 
policies only make explicit, only harden this evil division 
between man and man, make it more impossible for friend 
ship to grow or even to be seen as desirable in any form 
at all. 

The loss is so great that it is inexpressible. For the Chris 
tian it ought to be so great as to be intolerable. But it is 
not. The Christian drawing rooms at Parktown or Hough- 
ton would, for the most part, shudder at the idea of friend 
ship and affection existing between persons of different 
colours. Miscegenation, that fearful spectre which hovers 
over all South African society, is certainly regarded as a 
sin more mortal than any in the handbook of moral the 
ology. "Am I my brother's keeper?" is a question which 
must for ever take second place to "Would you like your 
sister to inarry a black man?" The great commandment, 
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself/' cannot be ap 
plied too literally; it might endanger the close and cabined 
security of European Christian homes. 

To keep up the barriers: that is the first essential of good 
government in South Africa, and it is because the Na 
tionalists are so much more efficient and farsighted in 
doing so than their opponents that they increase their ma 
jority at each election. We do not care that we lose some 
thing splendid and enriching by apartheid; we do not even 
know of its existence for we think we can do our duty to 
the black man without loving him; we are sure we know 



him better than anyone else, without knowing him as a 
person at all; we prefer to live in our own world and to 
call it Christian, if the alternative is to live in a world which 
is shared, culturally, spiritually, and socially with our Afri 
can brethren. The kiss of Jacob still lingers, not only in my 
memory but in my heart and will. It is a symbol of some 
thing so precious that I believe I would spend my whole 
life and all my strength striving to make it real to white 
South Africa, I am sure I should not succeed. You cannot, 
even in a lifetime, open the eyes of the blind or unstop the 
ears of the deaf. That is the prerogative of God himself. 

So the squatters in Newclare settled down and waited. 
Somehow, somewhere, their case would be argued and jus 
tice would be done and they could go home. The winter 
gave place to the short, bright African spring, which is a 
hardly noticeable transition to summer; not noticeable at 
all in Newclare, where there are so few growing things ex 
cept the grass. But with the summer, although there was 
relief from the bitter nights and the dust-laden winds, 
came the rain. The rain and the flies. The camp began to 
stink. The flimsy shacks were sodden; so were the beds and 
blankets beneath that leaking tarpaulin or that badly 
jointed iron. I begged for roofing material and got a hun 
dred pounds' worth from a friend whose brother owned 
a building yard. It was just rolls of thick damp-course ma 
terial, but at least it kept the worst of the rain off . 

Soon Reno Square was so crowded that no more families 
could possibly edge in, and the camp overflowed on to the 
Charles Phillips Square. It was a bit more orderly there; 
there was more room, and the shacks tended to be built of 
wooden packing cases rather than hessian or tin. There 
was, in fact, a dangerous air of permanence about the 
place which made the authorities hasten their delibera- 



tions and which finally induced the City Council to press 
again for an eviction order. The Medical Officer of Health 
had every reason to fear for the health of the people. The 
old slogan, "Disease knows no colour bar," began to work. 

In spite of our efforts (including deputations to the min 
ister from the Council) to compel action against the gang 
sters, the government, the police, and the European public 
of the city refused to bestir themselves. It became clear 
before the end of the year that the squatters would have 
to face a definite and final demand for eviction. From the 
point of view of their own health and well-being almost 
anything would be better than that sodden, muddy patch 
of ground with its mass of pitiful shelters. "Bundles of 
derelict humanity . . " they were called by one of the 
newspapers; it was an apt description. Nevertheless, their 
compulsory eviction would be a triumph for lawlessness 
and at the same time a fearful indictment of the authori 
ties who, knowing full well where the crime lay, did noth 
ing to bring it home to the criminals. 

I was convinced at the time, and I am still convinced 
today, that this inertia was deliberate and calculated. The 
Western Areas Removal Scheme, involving the expropria 
tion of all non-Europeans from Sophiatown, Martindale, 
and Newclare, was crystallising into its final shape. Un 
rest and tension, therefore, were most valuable and potent 
propaganda weapons for the government. It would be a 
grave mistake to ensure peace and justice for the Newclare 
squatters if it meant, in any kind of way, the condonation 
of their existence as legitimate citizens in that area. No 
better explanation of the official attitude has yet been put 
forward, anyhow, and I am quite ready to believe that 
there is none. The most that we could do was to ensure 
that the eviction should take place not to some far-off 


country area like Hammanskraal, but to an existing urban 
location, Moroka. On the eve of the eviction I wrote an 
article for the Johannesburg Star and said: 

The squatters' camp and the "Russians" are just pa 
thetic symptoms devil's sacraments of despair. They 
say unmistakably, "Here is an area where no perma 
nence, no security can be expected. Let us demonstrate 
our recognition of the fact that we are just flotsam and 
jetsam that here we have no abiding place." So, at 
dawn, the lorries arrive people, human beings, are 
crowded into them with what few possessions they have 
rescued. The trek to Moroka begins, to bare veldt be 
neath a winter sky, to the building again of something 
which can be called a home. Doubly "displaced persons" 
leave to their enemies the places they have known and 
the flimsy shelters they have set up. Where will it end? 
Who cares? Yet these are men and women, made in the 
image and likeness of God. Can we, European repre 
sentatives of a Christian civilisation, sleep easily in our 
beds? It is God whom we insult by our apathy and it 
is to Him ultimately that we must make answer. 

My questionrhetorical, perhaps, but intended at least 
to compel some attention went unheeded and unan 
swered. The Europeans I had addressed in my article did 
not find it hard to sleep. I did not really expect that they 

I was there on the morning the lorries arrived and 
watched the shacks being dismantled and their inhabit 
ants salvaging what they could take with them. I was there 
at Moroka and saw the empty plots, twenty feet by twenty 
feet square, on which the squatters were dumped. I was 
there a few days later to watch the new shacks rising from 



the new mud, to try to help with a bit more roofing 
terial or a few blankets. 

Dhlamini was disconsolate and helpless in this new and 
vast "temporary camp/' where sixty thousand others from 
the previous squatter movements at Orlando had for four 
or five years already been living and who now resented 
the intrusion of newcomers. There was no way, either, of 
holding them together, for their sites were carefully spaced 
in between existing shacks and houses. It was a defeat, and 
Dhlamini knew it. From time to time he came to see me to 
tell me of some problem or other. He had lost his job; the 
"Russians" had friends at Moroka who made life difficult 
for him and his friends; the children had all lost their 
places in school, for they could not travel every day back 
to Newclare, and the Moroka schools were full twice over. 
"Can the Father come and meet the people? The people 
are suffering too much, too much, Father. Can the Father 
see the superintendent? The superintendent threatens us 
that we must not stay together, we must go out in one 
month. Father, where can we go? Where can we go?" 

I have told the story of the Newclare squatter movement 
not only because I know every smallest detail of it but be 
cause I think it illustrates better than most events the kind 
of thing I have tried to fight against over the years. It 
shows, in the helplessness and suffering of a whole section 
of the urban African community, not only the conse 
quences of European apathy and unconcern but the logical 
and inevitable result of an apartheid policy. For if you 
really believe in apartheid as Dr. Verwoerd believes in it, 
if you really believe in white supremacy as Mr. Strijdom 
believes in itthen you are not concerned with persons as 
persons, and you cease to be concerned with justice as jus 
tice. These things become secondary. Persons become 



pawns in a political manoeuvre, and justice becomes a 
ludicrous parody of all that civilised countries understand 
by the term. Yet whenever I pass Reno Square today I feel 
a lifting of my heart. Is it because I saw there so much 
human courage and gaiety in the midst of so much deg 
radation? Or is it, perhaps, because a little African boy 
leapt from his blankets and kissed my hand? 

VII. Sophiatown 

SOPHIATOWN! How hard it is to capture and to convey the 
magic of that name! Once it is a matter of putting pen to 
paper, all the life and colour seem to leave it; and failing 
to explain its mysterious fascination is somehow a betrayal 
of one's love for the place. It is particularly important to 
me to try to paint the picture that I know and that is yet 
so elusive, for in a few years Sophiatown will cease to exist. 
It will be, first of all, a rubble heap, destruction spreading 
like some contagion through the streets (it has begun al 
ready), laying low the houses, good and bad alike, that 
I have known; emptying them of the life, the laughter, and 
the tears of the children till the place is a grey ruin lying 
in the sun. Then, I suppose, the factories will begin to go 
up, gaunt impersonal blocks of cement, characterless and 
chill, however bright the day. And in a few years men will 
have forgotten that this was a living community and a very 
unusual one. It will have slipped away into history, and 
that a fragmentary history of a fraction of time. Perhaps 
it will awaken faint echoes in the memory of some who 
recall that it was to Sophiatown that Kumalo came seek 
ing Absalom, his son. But they will never remember what 
I remember of it; and I cannot put my memories on paper, 
or, if I do, they will only be like the butterflies pinned, 
dead and lustreless, on the collector's board. Nevertheless, 
I must try. 



Sophiatown! The name has about it a certain historical 
and almost theological sound. It recalls Sancta Sophia, 
Holy Wisdom, and the dreaming city where her temple is 
built. I have never heard of another Sophiatown in the 
world, though I suppose there must be one; it is such a 
euphonious name, for one thing. And, of course, it has a 
history and a meaning as romantic in its way as anything 
connected with the Eastern Mediterranean. As romantic 
but also about as different as it could well be. 

Some fifty years ago, when Johannesburg was still a min 
ing dorp, a planned and growing town yet small and re 
stricted in area, a certain Mr. Tobiansky dreamed of a Eu 
ropean suburb in the west, on the rocky outcrop which is 
shadowed by the spur known as Northcliff. It is quite a 
long way from the centre of town, about four and a half 
miles in fact, but not an impossible distance. It was a most 
attractive site in every way, for it had "features": it was 
not like the flat and uninteresting central area of the city. 
It could hold its own in natural beauty with Parktown and 
Houghton, soon to become the most fashionable suburbs, 
and, like them, it had iron-red rock for a foundation and 
for a problem in civil engineering. 

Mr. Tobiansky bought a large plot of ground and named 
it in gratitude and admiration after his wife, Sophia. As he 
pegged out the streets he named many of them after his 
children: Edith and Gerty and Bertha and Toby and Sol. 
So from the very beginning Sophiatown had a homely and 
"family" feel about it. There was nothing "upstage" or 
snobbish about those names, just as there was nothing pre 
tentious about the kind of houses which began to spring 
up. In fact, there was nothing very planned about it either. 
Still the veldt and the rock were more noticeable than the 
houses: the streets ran up and down the kopje and stopped 



short when the kopje became too steep. There was on one 
side a wide sweep of what you might call meadowland: 
an empty plot of ground which provided clay for the bricks 
and a good playing field for the children. 

There seemed to be no reason on earth why Sophia- 
town should not be as popular a suburb as Parktown it 
self, perhaps even more popular because it was more open, 
higher up on the six-thousand-foot plateau which is Jo 
hannesburg. But Mr. Tobiansky had reckoned without the 
Town Council; or perhaps already that mischievous and 
unpredictable voice had whispered something about the 
future. Whatever it was, the Council decided that a grow 
ing town must have sewage-disposal facilities: and it de 
cided further that those facilities must be in the Western 
Area of the young Johannesburg. The natural and im 
mediate consequence of this decision was the end of Mr. 
Tobiansky's dream. Sophiatown ceased to be attractive in 
any way to those Europeans who wished to buy land and 
to build homes in the suburbs. Mr. Tobiansky could not 
sell to white Johannesburg and for a while he could not 
sell to anyone else. 

Then once again the Town Council intervened. The 
First World War brought a wave of industrialisation, and 
with it the need for African labour. The only existing loca 
tion, Pimville, had been planned and planted some ten 
miles from the centre of the town. There was certainly 
need for another location which would house the African 
workers and which might be a little more conveniently 
sited for their work. The Western Area was once more 
chosen. Sewage disposal and a native location seemed to 
go together. The Western Native Township, with accom 
modation for some three thousand families, was built, A 
tall iron fence was erected all round it. The Africans moved 



in. So, some forty years ago, began the African occupation 
of the western suburbs. 

As soon as the location was established, Tobiansky 
found himself in an area where the non-European was in 
the majority. There was nothing to prevent him selling his 
land to Africans, coloureds, and Asiatics. Under one of 
President Kruger's laws he was perfectly safeguarded for 
doing so, and as a good businessman he did the obvious 
thing. The obvious thing but not the most usual in South 
Africa. For when Tobiansky sold freehold properties to 
African purchasers, he was in fact establishing a unique 
situation. He was making possible an African or at least 
a non-whitesuburb in Johannesburg. He knew, no doubt, 
what he was doing. He could hardly have known the far- 
reaching consequences of his action. For as Johannesburg 
expanded, so did its need for African labour. Apart from 
the squalid slums of Vrededorp and the distant cor 
rugated-iron location of Pimville, there was nowhere for 
the people to live except the Western Native Township 
and the suburbs of Sophiatown, Martindale, and Newclare 
which surrounded it. Houses sprang up in Edith Street and 
elsewhere: houses of all types, all sizes, all colours. They 
crept up towards the rocks on top of the hill; they spread 
out towards the brickfields. By 1920 or thereabouts it had 
become quite obvious that here was an area which be 
longed by right of possession to the non-European half of 
Johannesburg. It was not so evident at that time that white 
suburbia was also spreading rapidly westwards and that it 
was becoming especially the residential area of the Eu 
ropean artisan. Sophiatown had come to maturity, had a 
character and an atmosphere of its own, and in the suc 
ceeding thirty-odd years that character and that atmos 
phere deepened and became only the more permanent. 



When I arrived to take over as priest-in-charge of the An 
glican mission in September 1943, & e place had for many 
years assumed the appearance it has today. It is that which 
I wish so greatly to put into words. Yet I know I cannot 

They say that Sophiatown is a slum. Strictly in terms of 
the Slums Act they are absolutely correct, for the density 
of the population is about twice what it should be 70,- 
ooo instead of 30,000. But the word "slum" to describe 
Sophiatown is grossly misleading and especially to people 
who know the slums of Europe or the United States. It 
conjures up immediately a picture of tenement buildings, 
old and damp, with crumbling stone and dark cellars. The 
Dickensian descriptions come to mind, and the gloom and 
dreariness which he could convey so vividly are there in 
the imagination as soon as the word "slum" is read or rec 
ognised. In that sense Sophiatown is not and never has 
been a slum. There are no tenements; there is nothing 
really old; there are no dark cellars. Sometimes, looking up 
at Sophiatown from the Western Native Township across 
the main road, I have felt I was looking at an Italian village 
somewhere in Umbria. For you do "look up" at Sophia- 
town, and in the evening light, across the blue-grey haze 
of smoke from braziers and chimneys, against a saffron sky, 
you see close-packed, red-roofed little houses. You see on 
the farthest sky line the tall and shapely blue-gum trees 
(which might be cypresses if it were really Italy) . You see, 
moving up and down the hilly streets, people in groups: 
people with colourful clothes; people who, when you come 
up to them, are children playing, dancing, and standing 
round the braziers. And above it all you see the Church 
of Christ the King, its tower visible north, south, east, and 
west, riding like a great ship at anchor upon the grey and 



golden waves of the town beneath. In the evening towards 
the early South African sunset there is very little of the 
slum about Sophiatown. It is a human dwelling place. It 
is as if old Sophia Tobiansky herself were gathering her 
great family about her, watching over them before they 
slept. Essentially Sophiatown is a gay place and, for all 
the occasional moments of violence and excitement, a 
kindly one too. But like every other place with a character, 
you have to live in it, to get the feel of its life, before you 
can really know it. And in the whole of South Africa there 
are only a handful of white citizens who have had that 

The decision to move the Western Areas, to destroy all 
the properties built there, and to transplant the whole pop 
ulation to Meadowlands, four miles farther away from the 
city, was taken by people who had no firsthand knowledge 
of the place at all. How could they be expected to know 
it, when in their eyes it represents the very antithesis of a 
sound "native policy*? Freehold rights and permanence, 
the building up of a living communitythese things are 
contrary to the whole doctrine of apartheid. They assume 
that the African has a right to live in the city as well as to 
work in it. Such an assumption is heresy to Dr. Verwoerd. 
It cannot be allowed. But what is it that makes Sophia- 
town so precious? Why should we care so much to pre 
serve what, on any showing, is two thirds a slum area? I 
have asked myself that question a thousand times as I have 
walked its streets, visited its people in their homes, taken 
the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and dying. I have asked 
it when the dust was flying and the wind tossing the refuse 
about in those sordid and overcrowded back yards, and 
I have asked it when, looking for someone at night, I have 
stumbled in the dark across children asleep on the floor, 



packed tight together beneath a table to make room for 
others also to sleep. I have asked it when, on a blisteringly 
hot December day, the sun has beaten down on the iron 
ceiling of a shack and the heat has mercilessly pressed its 
substance upon that old, frail creature lying on the bed. 
I have asked it as I lay awake at night listening to the 
drunken shouts and the noisy laughter from the yard be 
hind the mission. In other words, I know Sophiatown at 
its worst: in all weathers, under all conditions, as a slum 
living up to its reputation. I still love it and believe it has 
a unique value. But why? 

In the first place, because it is not a "location." Part of 
the meaning of white South Africa's attitude to the African 
is revealed in that word "location." In America it generally 
has reference to part of the technique of the cinema in 
dustry. A film is made "on location" in order to give it the 
genuine flavour and atmosphere required by the story. But 
everywhere else in the world, so far as I know, the word 
just means a place, a site, a prescribed area. That is why, 
no doubt, it was chosen by the European when he decided 
that the African must have somewhere to live when he 
came to work in the towns and cities of his own country. 
He could not live in a suburb. He could not live in a vil 
lage. He could not live in the residential area of the town 
itself. He could only work in those places. And because 
he is an abstraction "a native" he must have an abstrac 
tion for his home. A location in fact, a place to be in for 
so long as his presence is necessary and desirable to his 
European boss. A place from which to move on when it 
ceases to be necessary or desirable that he should stay. 

The locations of South Africa for the most part live up 
to their name. They are abstract, colourless places. Every 
town has one on its outskirts. Today it is necessary by law 



that there should be a buffer strip at least five hundred 
yards wide between any location and the town it serves. 
There must be the same distance between a location and 
a main road. Nothing must be erected on the buffer strip 
not even a pair of football goal posts. It must mark that 
tremendous and vital distinction between civilisation and 
barbarism upon which the doctrine of white supremacy 
rests. No one of either race may linger on that strip of 
land, for in that way it might become a meeting place. 
It is, in exact and literal terms, a no man s land; and it is 
meant to be just that. 

There is a noticeable and depressing similarity about all 
locations. It is not only that for the most part the houses 
are built on mass-production lines and at the lowest cost 
compatible with minimum housing standards. It is that at 
the same time they are sited in the most monotonous way 
imaginable, as if to say: "There must be no variety in a 
location. Variety is a characteristic of the human being. 
His home is a reflection of that characteristic. But because 
the African is a native, it is a quality which simply does 
not exist." Sometimes, with the older locations, tall iron 
fences were erected and give the impression not only of a 
kind of imprisonment but of a fortification, as though the 
location were totally alien to the life around it and had 
to be defended at all costs from any contact with it. Today 
the buffer strip serves the same purpose and is less ex 
pensive. So, in a location, you have row upon row of small 
boxlike houses of almost identical shape and size. Such 
variation as there is marks the end of one housing con 
tract and the beginning of another or the start, perhaps, of 
some new experiment in pre-fab construction. It is never 
variety for its own sake. It is a location not a village, you 
must remember. As such it is unnecessary for the streets 



to be named. You simply number the houses from one to 
two or ten thousand and you leave it at that. If, later on, 
a few streets receive baptism, it is too late for old habits 
to be broken. Mrs. Kambula lives at 6oo2A Orlando. Mrs. 
Marite lives "in the four thousands." It all helps to keep 
the idea of abstraction alive. 

The great advantage of the location is that it can be 
controlled. People who come to visit their friends for the 
weekend must have permits before they can set foot upon 
that arid, municipal turf. It is so much easier, too, to pre 
vent the native feeling himself a permanent resident in 
our cities if nonpayment of rent is a criminal offence rather 
than a civil one. The presence, in every location, of a Eu 
ropean superintendent with his small army of officials, 
black and white, and his municipal police, is a sound and 
healthy reminder that in South Africa the African needs 
the white man to guide and direct his daily life. And in 
the sphere of broader strategy it is also wiser to have the 
native living in one large but easily recognisable camp 
than scattered around the town in smaller groupings. If 
there is trouble in Johannesburg, for instance, Orlando can 
be "contained" by a comparatively small force. It is not a 
bad target from the air either. And its buffer strip ensures 
that no European suburb will be hit by mistake. 

In the larger locations there are shops, and they are even 
allowed under licence to be owned and run by Africans. 
All the essential services are provided, though lighting for 
your house is not necessarily regarded as essential. It is 
not untypical of the location concept that in Johannesburg 
the largest power station in the Southern Hemisphere 
stands at the gate of Orlando. It supplies electricity to 
the city. Orlando is lit by candles and paraffin lights. 
Churches, schools, and clinics exist in locations through 


the effort of the various missionary and voluntary organi 
sations. Municipal social workers go about their business. 
Men and women live there and make their family life a 
reality. But always I have the feeling (and I am sure I 
am meant to have it, as are the inhabitants themselves) 
that a location cannot belong to anyone except the peo 
ple who control it, the European officials who live far away 
in the city, that other abstraction, "the municipality." Al 
ways, even in considering the better aspects of location 
life (and there are some, I suppose), I seem to hear the 
voice of the Manager of Non-European Affairs saying: "We 
are going to do you good, whether you like it or not, for 
we alone know what is good for you!" 

Sophiatown is not a location. That is my first reason for 
loving it. It is so utterly free from monotony in its siting, 
in its buildings, and in its people. By a historical accident 
it started life as a suburb, changed its colour at an early 
moment in its career, and then decided to go all out for 
variety. A 3000 building jostles a row of single rooms: an 
"American" barber s shop stands next door to an African 
herbalist's store with its dried roots and dust-laden animal 
hides hanging in the window. You can go into a store to 
buy a packet of cigarettes and be served by a Chinaman, 
an Indian, or a Pakistani. You can have your choice of 
doctors and clinics even, for they also are not municipally 
controlled. There are churches of every denomination and 
of almost every imaginable sect. There is one, for example, 
known as the "Donkey Church," upon whose squat, square 
tower there stands, in place of the traditional weathercock, 
an ass. I would not know its real origin, except that it is, 
I believe, a schism from the Methodist Church. Nor do I 
wish to suggest any approval for schism as such: for noth 
ing has done so much damage to African Christianity than 



its fissiparousness. But somehow or other that little donkey 
represents the freedom that has existed down the years in 
Sophiatown, and when I pass it I metaphorically lift my 
hat. It reminds me, for one thing, of the truth that G. K. 
Chesterton so simply and so profoundly taught in his 

The tattered outlaw of the earth 

Of ancient crooked will; 

Starve, scourge, deride me; I am dumb, 

I keep my secret still. 

Fools! For I also had my hour: 
One far fierce hour and sweet: 
There was a shout about my ears, 
And palms "before my feet. 

Basically, white South Africa has the same benign or un- 
benign contempt for the African as man for the donkey. 
Was it not Smuts himself who said once that "the African 
has the patience of the ass"? And so Sophiatown is written 
off as a slum area; its values must be those of the slum; 
its people must be dirty, undesirable, and, above all, un 
seen. Like the donkey that stands as a symbol above their 
streets, they are useful for their labour, for they are strong. 
But, as Dr. Verwoerd says, there is no place for them 
above that level in society itself. "I keep my secret still. 
. . r The secret of Sophiatown is not only its variety, it is 
its hidden heroisms, or rather its unknown heroes and 
heroines, its saints uncanonised and unsung. I know very 

In the first place, let me say it frankly, any young person 
who keeps straight when the dice are loaded so heavily 
against him needs virtue of a heroic quality. The over- 



crowded rooms of Sophiatown, wherein whole families 
must sleep and must perform all their human functions as 
best they may, do not make morality an easy thing. The 
lack of opportunity for fulfilling his personality in any pro 
ductive way does not make it easy, either, for a lad to es 
cape the street-corner gang and the excitement of gam 
bling. The endless, grey vista of an existence which is 
based upon poverty is not the kind of outlook which helps 
to keep a boy or his girl friend alive to ultimate standards 
of beauty, truth, and goodness. 

Again and again, hearing confessions, I have asked my 
self how I could advise these children, how warn them, 
how comfort them when they have fallen. "... I have 
sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, by my 
fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault. . . ." 
Have you really? No doubt the actual sin is grave enough 
fornication or stealing or fighting-but what would I 
have done in your place? And whose fault is it in the sight 
of God? And what, anyway, can I advise? 

"Don't let yourself get into bad company. . . . Don't be 
idle. . . . Find some other interest than gambling. . . . 
Love? Well, it's not so easy to describe it . . .it must have 
the quality of unselfishness/' 

God forgive me! I find myself giving advice that, in 
those circumstances, I know I could not follow. And yet, 
again and again, those gentle men and women, those fresh, 
gay lads and girls try to follow, try desperately hard to 
obey it, and even in their failures do not make environ 
ment or circumstance an excuse. To keep your self-respect 
when you are expected to have less than your white baas; 
to keep your home neat and tidy and to dress your children 
in fresh clothes; to pay for their school books regularly 
and to see that they are fed properly. All this against a 



background of overcrowding, of the need to be up and 
away to work before you have time to eat your own break 
fast or to clean the room that is your home. It needs the 
kind of virtue which most European Christians in South 
Africa have never come within a mile of. And it is com 
mon in Sophiatown. I do not refer just to our own church 
people, though naturally they are the ones I know best 
and most intimately. There is in that "black spot" (to use 
the minister's offensive title) a great well of courage and 
cheerfulness in face of adversity which has been through 
the years an inspiration and a challenge to at least one 
Christian priest. I can shut my eyes for a moment and see 
old blind Margaret tapping her way along the street in 
the darkness which has been hers for many long years. 
Always, half an hour before the early Mass, she will be 
there in church, prostrate in prayer. Day by day I will 
find her spending an hour or more before the statue of Our 
Lady which she has never seen, and if I stop her in the 
street I will be greeted with that wonderful smile and the 
lifting of her sightless eyes to my face. . . . 

Or, after Mass on Sunday morning, there will be old 
Tryphena Mtembu. She has spent all her years (at least all 
those that I have known) mending sacks and inhaling ce 
ment dust into her old lungs, so that she is never free from 
a fierce cough. She lives in a single dark room and "does" 
for herself, although a few years ago she fell and broke 
her leg and has to fight her way on to the early-morning 
bus with a crutch in one gnarled and work-lined hand. 
Tryphena has a wonderful flow of language, and her 
epithets are not always what you might expect from a de 
vout and faithful old lady. She is, in fact, very much a 
product of the Old Kent Road, and were it not for her 
broken leg I believe she would sing and dance to "Knees 



up. Mother Brown" with the best of them. I also believe 
that her place in heaven is assured. For how could it be 
otherwise with one who fronts adversity with those twin 
kling and mischievous brown eyes and defies poverty to 
get her down with that marvellous and undaunted faith? 

Or, again, there is Piet, who put all his money into the 
house in Millar Street, where he now sits, crippled with 
arthritis, and hoping to die before they come and demolish 
his home over his head. Old Piet, our churchwarden for 
so long, who worked for over thirty years in one of the 
best furniture shops in the city and was rewarded by his 
employers with a pittance which would not keep him alive. 
Never have I heard him complain, even when it was ob 
vious that the handling of great bales of material was too 
much for him in his old age, even when it was a painful 
and weary journey for him to climb the short hill to the 
church he loved. 

It would be easy but not very interesting, I suppose, to 
list a score of others of all ages and types who have lived 
in Sophiatown for the better part of their lives and who 
by their very living have enriched and beautified it greatly. 
A priest can see these things. Sometimes he cannot find 
words in which to express them. But Johannesburg knows 
nothing of them and can know nothing, for it does not care. 
To Johannesburg, Sophiatown is a slum: a native slum at 
that. How could it possibly have any human dignity about 

But there is one feature of life in Sophiatown which ev 
eryone can recognise everyone who goes there, that is. 
It is inescapable from the first moment when you step out 
of your car or stop to ask the way from the tram stop to 
the mission. It does not matter much what time of day it 
is either. Nor does it make a great deal of difference who 



you are or what your business provided you are not a 
policeman in uniform. It is the children. 

I remember the first day o my arrival there on a Sep 
tember morning twelve years ago. After breakfast at the 
mission I was told, "There's a school Mass on in the church. 
They'd like to see you. Will you come across?" The church 
is a large one by any standards. As I stood at the back 
and looked towards the High Altar I could see nothing 
but row upon row of black, curly heads. It seemed impos 
sible to imagine that there could be quite so many chil 
drenimpossible, anyhow, to imagine myself getting to 
know even a fraction of them. But I was wrong on both 
counts. This congregation represented only about half the 
children in one school. Soon, within a few weeks, I was 
beginning not only to know them but to compare them 
mentally with other children I had known in England. I 
found that I quite easily thought of their names, their fea 
tures, and their characters in the same terms as of those 
who were already part of my family, part of my very life. 
And the reason was not hard to discover. 

The Sophiatown child is the friendliest creature on earth 
and the most trusting. God knows why it should be so, 
but it is. You will be walking across the playground and 
suddenly feel a tug at your sleeve or a pressure against 
your knee; and then there will be a sticky hand in yours. 
"Hallo, Farther, hallo, Seester, how are you? Hallo, hallo, 
hallo. . . ." You will come back from Johannesburg, as I 
have done a thousand times, fed up and sick with weari 
ness from that soulless city, and immediately you are 
caught in a rush and scurry of feet, in faces pressed against 
your car window, in arms stretching up to reach yours 
whether you like it or not. You are home. Your children 
are around you ten of them, a hundred, a thousand; you 


belong to them and they will never let you forget it. How, 
then, can you fail to love the place where such things hap 
pen? Its dusty, dirty streets and its slovenly shops, its 
sprawling and unplanned stretches of corrugated-iron 
roof: its fetid and insanitary yards? ". . . and the streets 
of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the 
streets thereof . . ." is a description of the heavenly Je 
rusalem. It is a good one. And anyone who has lived as I 
have in that "slum" called Sophiatown will recognise how 
swiftly, through the presence of its children and through 
their unspoilt and unassailable laughter, heaven can break 
in upon this old and dreary world. 

I have said that Sophiatown is a gay place. It is more. 
It has a vitality and an exuberance about it which belong 
to no other suburb in South Africa, certainly to no white 
suburb. It positively sparkles with Me. Sometimes when 
I have been depressed by the apparent success of the pres 
ent government in selling the idea of "white supremacy," 
I have pulled myself up by thinking just for a moment or 
two of the African people as I know them in Sophiatown. 
There is something so robust and strong about their way 
of dealing with each frustration, which is each day, that 
it is even laughable to think that such an idea can endure. 
And in fact it is by laughter, so often, that the problems 
and the sorrows are fronted and overcome. It is by that 
magnificent sense of humour and by the fitness with which 
it is expressed that victory is won in the daily struggle and 
will ultimately be won in the struggle for true nationhood. 

A good example of the kind of humour I have known 
and loved is to be seen in Sophiatown any weekend, when 
the "Sophiatown Scottish" are on the march. In the dis 
tance, on a Sunday afternoon, you will hear the beating of 
a drum and the sound of a far trumpet. Soon, at the far- 



thest end of Victoria Road, you will see a small crowd 
moving towards you and becoming a large crowd as it 
moves. Then, if you are wise, you will wait, and witness 
the unique and heartening sight of an all- African, all-fe 
male band dressed in tartan kilts, white gloves, bandsman's 
staff, and accoutrement, swinging down the road with mar 
vellous gusto. Behind them will come the spectators, not 
marching in step but dancing with complete abandon and, 
surrounding them as always when there's a sight, a crowd 
of the children, dancing, too, and singing as they dance. 
Somehow the "Sophiatown Scottish" stand for so much 
more than a happy Sunday afternoon. They stand for the 
joy and gaiety which is there, deep in the heart of the Afri 
can and ready to break out in one form or another when 
ever and wherever he is at home. 

Another example of the same thing I have seen very 
often at political meetings, especially when European 
police are present to take names and to record speeches. 
What could so easily, in other circumstances, become a 
dangerously tense situation through the provocative and 
contemptuous attitude of the authorities becomes a ridic 
ulous and irrelevant matter. "After all," the Africans seem 
to say, "this is only an incident, and a minor one, in our 
progress to freedom and to fulfilment. Why not laugh at 
it, shrug it off with a song?" And so they do. 

Sophiatownl It is not your physical beauty which 
makes you so lovable; not that soft line of colour which 
sometimes seems to strike across the greyness of your 
streets; not the splendour of the evening sky which turns 
your drabness into gold it is none of these things. It is 
your people. Yet somehow I do not think it can be the 
same when you yourself have been destroyed and your 
houses are just rubble and the factories begin to go up and 



to smother you with their bulk and size. Even though your 
people will still be here in Johannesburg, in the wide sym 
metry of some location such as Meadowlands, there will 
have been a loss immeasurable. The truth is that Sophia- 
town is a community, a living organism which has grown 
up through the years and which has struck its roots deep 
in this particular place and in this special soil. So have I 
known it to be. A community with all the ordinary prob 
lems of a community and made up of people and families 
both bad and good. A community, not an abstraction, and 
therefore personal and real in all its aspects. And because 
it is an African community, living in a city of South Africa, 
it has to grow together in a unique way. Xosa and Mosotho, 
Shangaan and Motswana, Indian and Chinese, coloured 
and white have all contributed something to it. And in 
my opinion they have all had something of value to con 
tribute. The place is cosmopolitan in a real sense and has 
about it that atmosphere which belongs to cosmopolitan 
towns the world over. It is, in that sense, unique. The most 
unlikely and unexpected things can happen there and not 
appear at all unlikely or seem incongruous. So you have 
to be prepared, if you live in the midst of it as a priest, 
for every conceivable problem at every hour of the day 
or night. How, then, can you fail to love it? 

A great deal is said by sociologists and others of "the 
breakdown of tribal custom" and "the disastrous impact 
of Western industrialism upon the urban African/* That 
sentence itself is stiff with the jargon of the race-relations 
textbook. But when you live in Sophiatown you don't see 
it that way at all. You see Mrs. X., who has a drunken hus 
band and five children to support and what must she do? 
You see Mr. Y., whose wife left him two years ago and the 
kids are growing up; what is he to plan for them, can the 



"Father" help him? You see young Joel, who has just left 
school and got a "tea-boy" job in the city, but he longs to 
do his Matric. and can't find the time or the money or the 
quietness for work that he needs. You are called to that 
room in Tucker Street, where Joseph is fighting for his life 
against advanced t.b., and in spite of all your efforts you 
can't get a bed anywhere and you wonder well, you won 
der what it all means within die Providence of God. And 
you hear that Jane has got into trouble and the boy won't 
admit his fault; and you run posthaste to see her father 
before he goes out with a sjambok. . . . And then there's 
George, arrested for carrying dagga, and there's Michael, 
whom you've not seen for weeks, but you hear he's drink 
ing. . . . But behind them all, behind the "problems" 
which come the way of every priest in every parish in 
Christendom, there is that great mass of folk who live or 
dinary lives in extraordinary conditions and who are the 
Christian community in Sophiatown. And a more vital 
Christian community it would be hard to find anywhere. 
I wonder, for instance, how many parishes in England 
today would have a Mass in the dark of a winter morning 
at half -past five and get a congregation of twenty or thirty 
people? And that not just once, but week after week? I 
wonder how many churches today are full on Sunday 
morning at six o'clock and again at eleven? Yet this is but 
the outward form of something far deeper and more pro 
found. It is in fact the answer to the sociologist's question 
-at least it is part of the answer. The only thing which 
is meeting the need for a sense of "community," of "be 
longing," in the broken and shattered tribalism of the 
town-dwelling African is the Church. It is for that reason 
that these present years of crisis are of such tremendous 
significance. If the Church fails in bearing her witness on 



the colour question now, she will never, in my opinion, 
have a second opportunity. Here in Sophiatown over the 
past thirty years and more we have been engaged in build 
ing a Christian community. It is that community which 
is now being smashed to pieces in the interests of a racial 
ideology. And as we watch our people's homes being re 
duced to heaps of rubble we watch also the destruction of 
something which cannot be built again so easily or so fair. 
When Sophiatown is finally obliterated and its people 
scattered, I believe that South Africa will have lost not 
only a place but an ideal. 

Day that I have loved, day that I have loved, 
The night is here. . . . 


VIII. Who Goes There? 

IN A WORLD which has grown painfully familiar with 
idea of restrictions upon personal freedom and with jargon 
about the "Iron Curtain/' it is more than necessary to ask 
exactly what we are prepared to do about it. Whether as 
Christians, who claim that the sacredness of personality is 
inviolable, or as citizens of a commonwealth which boasts 
its regard for freedom, there are certain challenging facts 
which we cannot avoid. At least we cannot avoid them if 
we are honest. As I write these words, for instance, there 
are fifty-seven South African citizens who in one year have 
been refused passports. One of them, Mrs. Jessie Mc- 
Pherson, happens to be chairman of the South African La 
bour Party. It is freely stated (and indeed the courts have 
themselves upheld the contention ) that a passport is a priv 
ilege and not a right. But the effect of the latest legisla 
tion (the Passport Regulation Act of 1955) is to make it 
impossible for any citizen of South Africa to move out of 
the country without a passport or a travel permit issued 
by the state. In other words, the government can and does 
refuse the "privilege" of freedom of movement to any citi 
zen who, for one reason or another, has incurred its dis 
pleasure. The Commonwealth has an "Iron Curtain" every 
bit as formidable (and in some respects perhaps more so) 
as that across eastern Europe. So it is rather important to 
examine the situation carefully. What, in fact, is happen- 



ing to freedom of movement in South Africa? Does it still 

Let me begin by telling the story of Oliver Tambo, at 
present one of the few African attorneys in the country 
and acting secretary of the African National Congress. 
Oliver was born about forty years ago in a little village 
called Bizana in eastern Pondoland, deep in the heart of 
the Transkeian Native Reserve. Both his parents were 
heathen and illiterate; his father was fairly wealthy and 
according to custom had several wives. Oliver was, in fact, 
the second child of the third wife. This is significant to 
the story, for it is so often said, and I suppose believed, 
that the African cannot possibly make the jump from prim 
itive to Western society in such a short span as a hundred 
or two hundred years. Indeed,, Dr. Verwoerd believes that 
he cannot make it at all and that in fact tribalism is more 
important to African development than the Christian ethic. 
Oliver sat on the stoep of our library a few days ago tell 
ing me his story, and as he spoke the sunlight fell upon 
and accentuated the marks of the knife upon his face, the 
marks of tribalism. It also fell upon the furrows across his 
forehead and at the corners of those bright, intelligent, and 
alert eyes of his and showed up the suffering and the sor 
row that are in his face today. I have known Oliver for 
several years, and I have known him well in these last 
days when we have worked most closely together over the 
Bantu Education Act and the Western Areas Removal 
Scheme. This was the first time I had asked him about his 
childhood and his past. 

"I went to a mission primary school," he said, "but when 
I got to Standard Four I began to play truant. School was 
boring to me, and I just stopped going. By that time my 
father was getting old and he had lost all his wealth; he 



was a farmer, and he was just unfortunate. We were ter 
ribly poor. I thought of going out to work. It was at that 
moment in my life that the first great change and chance 
occurred/' As he told it me, Oliver did not attempt to add 
anything to the bare and simple facts. There was a famous 
Anglican mission station a few miles away at Holy Cross. 
One day one of the priests visited Bizana, saw Olivers 
father, who by this time had become a Christian, and 
suggested taking the boy back with him to the boarding 
school at the mission. It was a great opportunity, and the 
old man swiftly assented. 

"I arrived there/' said Oliver, "on Easter Day, with one 
of my stepbrothers, and I shall never forget that moment. 
We entered the great church whilst the Mass of Easter was 
being sung. I can still see the red cassocks of the servers, 
the grey smoke of the incense, the vestments of the priest 
at the altar. ... It was a new world." The old longing for 
education stirred again in the heart of that small African 
boy. He worked hard, passed his standards, and found him 
self in the top formand the highest that he could reach 
in Holy Cross Mission. 

Once again it seemed like the end: the vanishing of a 
dream. There was no money at home and no chance of 
getting any rich relations to help. Oliver braced himself to 
face the road which so many of his people trod, the road 
of labour without hope of fulfilment. But again Providence 
intervened, this time in the person of Father Leary, a well- 
known missionary in Pondoland. He suggested that Oliver 
should go to St. Peter s School in Johannesburg, which had 
then just begun its secondary course. He did more: for he 
found the money. So, at sixteen, a small and bewildered 
boy from the rolling lands of the Transkei found himself 
for the first time in Johannesburg, in "Goli," the fabulous 



city, where there was so much wealth and so much wick 
edness too; where in contrast to the quiet and gentle 
villages that Oliver had known there was the noise and 
clamour and rush of a town built on and built for gold. 
Here, if ever, was a test of adaptability. In his person there 
met all that could be best described as tribalism, all that 
could be expressed in industrialised Western society. 

"I came with Robert Sonquishe, now a priest, and we 
went through St. Peter's together/' "Went through" is a 
good description. Oliver got a first-class Matric. (the same 
examination as that taken by European school children) 
and a Bunga scholarship to Fort Hare, the African univer 
sity college. He took his B.Sc. degree in 1941 and then 
began studying for his education diploma witia a view to 

Once more things went badly wrong. 'Within two 
months of my final exam there was a dispute in the college 
with the authorities. As secretary of the Students' Repre 
sentative Council I had to take the responsibility for stat 
ing the students' case. It was a small matter concerning 
the playing of games on Sundays, but certain principles 
were involved and, anyway, I had to put the case." For 
some reason now lost in the past, the authorities insisted 
on a written pledge from the students concerning their con 
duct but also concerning their spiritual life and their 
religious duties. "I asked the warden for time to pray about 
this, and I went to the chapel for half an hour. I knew I 
could not sign that pledge. It demanded something from 
me that I could not give. It would have killed my religion 
stone dead an agreement with God, written and signed? 
I could not do it!" Oliver told the warden of his decision 
and was immediately expelled. His expulsion meant, so far 
as he could see, the end of his ambitions, for he would 



never get a teaching post without the diploma and with 
his record of expulsion for indiscipline. "I wandered into 
Alice" (the town nearest to Fort Hare) "and stayed there 
till nightfall. I just did not see what I could do. I decided, 
anyhow, to go back to the chapel and pray. So at eleven 
o'clock that night I opened the door. It was completely 
dark, completely empty, absolutely silent. But at the far 
end, near the Blessed Sacrament, there was a glow of light 
from the lamp which always burned there. I took that as a 
sign. That somewhere, however dark, there is a light. . . ." 

After much anxiety and after deciding to go to Durban 
and work in a kitchen, at the twenty-third hour Oliver 
heard from St. Peter's School that there was an unexpected 
vacancy for a science master. So he found himself at home 
again in the school he loved best. 

After a few years of teaching he decided to try his hand 
at law, studied in his spare time, took his attorney's ad 
mission, and after three more years qualified as an attorney. 

I have told this story in some detail and at some length, 
for it shows not only the quality of the man but the quality 
of the struggle which faces all young Africans with ability 
and ambition. It all shows, I think, the quality of faith, the 
Christian motive at its best. Indeed, it would be hard to 
find a more devoted churchman than Oliver Tambo. 

It was for this reason that when I heard that he had been 
banned in terms of the Suppression of Communism Act I 
took up my pen and wrote for the London Observer an 
article entitled "The Church Sleeps On." It seemed to me 
then and it seems to me now quite intolerable that the 
great mass of Christian people in South Africa should re 
main entirely unmoved when a man of Oliver's stature was 
victimised in this way. Of course it had already happened 
to many others, to trade unionists, to left-wing publicists, 



to almost every African and Indian leader of any stature. 
But here was, it seemed to me, a unique opportunity for 
the Church to protest and to demand to be heard on behalf 
of one of her most faithful sons. She did nothing. 

The ban, in Oliver's case, restricted him to the Johannes 
burg municipal area and to Benoni, his place of residence. 
It meant that as a busy and popular lawyer he could not 
reach his own clients unless they happened to live in the 
city. It meant, further, that he could not attend any meet 
ings or be present at any gatherings, even of a social nature. 
It so happened that on the occasion of Speech Day at St. 
Peter's School he had been invited, as a distinguished old 
boy, to speak. He could not risk that, but he did come to 
listen, hidden away from the main hall. Halfway through 
the afternoon, as we were moving out from one place to 
another, one of the boys reported to me that the Special 
Branch of the C.I.D. had also been listening to the 
speeches. Oliver had slipped away by a side entrance. The 
police were watching his car and he dared not go near it. 

On another occasion, very recently, I rang up and asked 
him to supper. He was followed by the police from the 
moment he left his office. On yet another occasion he was 
urgently summoned by his family to the Transkei, and he 
used his telephone to send a telegram announcing the time 
of his arrival. In the wilds of Pondoland as he drew near 
his home he was stopped by a police car and questioned. 
He lives, in fact, always under the shadow of arrest, always 
watched and spied upon, always in danger of losing the 
tenuous liberty that remains to him. Why? Because in 
South Africa today the state has assumed the right to re 
strict absolutely the liberty of its subjects, and if they are 
Africans who show any powers of leadership, that restric 
tion is justified by the single word "Communist." 



The Church sleeps on. "White" Christianity is more 
concerned to retain its character as a law-abiding force 
than to express its abhorrence of such attacks on personal 
liberties. In spite of constant synodical resolutions and 
episcopal pronouncements, the Church as a whole does 
not care. "If one member suffer, all the members suffer 
with it/* says St. Paul. We have travelled a very long way 
from that conception in Christian South Africa. It is easier 
to condemn communism than to practise the faith you pro 
fess. Oliver Tambo can live his hunted life and I can forget 
that he also belongs to the Divine Society, to the Family 
of God, to the Body of Christ. I can forget it because for 
so long in South Africa I have forgotten that man is made 
in the Image and Likeness of God even when he is black. 

One of the phrases which recur with sickening familiar 
ity in South Africa is "protest meeting/' Looking back over 
the years, I can picture a great many meetings in which 
I have taken part. As each year has brought some new 
restrictive law, so a group, either created for the purpose 
or already existing, has rallied its followers to protest. The 
Suppression of Communism Act, the Citizenship Act, the 
Criminal Law Amendment Act to name some at random 
have all stimulated opposition in this form. Standing 
on the steps of the Johannesburg City Hall, or in Church 
Square, Pretoria, we have addressed the people. For a few 
days both before and after such meetings there has been 
some interest in the press, but in no case that I can remem 
ber has there been any real effect upon the government's 
attitude. It takes a great deal more than a protest meeting 
to impress a party which knows that on the basic issue 
confronting the country it can count on an almost total 
white unity. All that one can hope to do by public protest 



is to clear one's own conscience and to try at least to stir 
the consciences of others. 

But there is one meeting of this kind which I feel to be 
significant in a different way. It took place very recently 
in Alexandra Township and I was asked to speak. It had 
to be on a Sunday morning, as nearly all African meetings 
have to be so planned, taking into account working hours, 
difficulties of transport, dangers of night in dark and unlit 
streets. Often I have found myself going straight from 
Mass to such a gathering; from the altar or the pulpit to 
the soapbox. It is a strange experience, but I believe it to 
be a valuable and a valid one. Anyhow, under urban Afri 
can conditions it is inevitable. On this particular Sunday 
as I drove across the rutted roads of the township and 
tried to avoid the dongas which never get filled in, I saw on 
the farthest edge of Alexandra a little group of people gath 
ering. When I got there they were already sitting in a semi 
circle, perhaps two hundred of them, listening quietly to 
an African speaker. Two police cars were drawn up on the 
edge of the audience; two African "specials" were sitting 
at the back taking down every word spoken. It was very 
quiet and attentive, that little gathering. 

"We do not care to know," said the speaker, "what Miss 
Navid's politics were. We know only that she did a great 
work for us and our children in the three years that she 
was in Alexandra. Under her care Entokozweni developed 
wonderfully. She built a creche for our little ones. She 
started vegetable clubs to help us buy food more cheaply. 
She began a school for those who were out of school. Now 
we are told she is a Communist. We do not know, we do 
not care about such matters. All we know is that the gov 
ernment has taken her away from us, has taken away our 
friend and will not let her work here any more. She is to be 



buried alive in her own country, buried alive. . . . For she 
cannot do the work that she is trained to do. . . ." From 
time to time the audience moaned and uttered that strange 
but expressive cry which anyone who knows Africa will 
remember always, "A-eee . . . a-ee!" It was indeed not un 
like a funeral oration, a funeral party. What was it all 

For the past three years and more Helen Navid, a great 
friend of mine, an agnostic, and one who in her student 
days had been attracted by Marxism, had been in charge 
of Entokozweni. This place, known technically as a family 
welfare centre, was ( and is ) run by a voluntary committee 
and aims at trying to fill some of the gaps which exist in 
state social welfare services in the urban areas of South 
Africa today. Its work is immensely varied, as varied as are 
the needs of the great mass of people settled in Alexandra 
Township itself. Anyone in charge of such a centre needs 
not only the technical qualifications of the social welfare 
worker but the qualities of patience, of compassion, and 
of perseverance in a high degree. Helen had all of these. 
She was able to build up a staff of African helpers and to 
earn and retain their trust. She was, in fact, employed by 
the government itself in a research programme concerning 
the incidence of cancer amongst the non-Europeans of the 
city. But she was also independent enough to take part in 
the opposition to the Western Areas Removal Scheme and 
the Bantu Education Act. We worked very closely to 
gether in both these battles, and never was there a more 
determined or efficient fighter than Helen. It was due to 
her hard work that committees were formed in the Euro 
pean suburbs of the city to serve as a platform for our 
speakers, a platform which was most necessary in coun 
teracting government propaganda and most difficult to 



achieve. Perhaps the most successful meeting of this kind 
we ever had was at Parktown, a highly respectable and 
influential suburb, when Oliver Tambo and I spoke to 
gether, and our audience contained one or two city coun 
cillors and at least one M.P. 

Helen was one of those rare people not only content to 
work in the background but preferring to do so. It was 
this quality, together with her superb efficiency and thor 
oughness, which made her so valubale. But neither effi 
ciency nor unselfishness would have been sufficient of 
themselves without a real integrity of purpose. This she 
had in a high degree, and it was directed against those 
evil forces of repression and racialism which both of us 
hated so greatly, though from differing foundations of be 
lief. And here let me say quite frankly that I have again 
and again found myself more able to understand and 
better understood amongst people of Helen Navid's quality 
than amongst practising Christians. That fearful barrier of 
respectability which so often grows up around even the 
most devout and devoted churchgoer is even more evident 
and more difficult to penetrate in South Africa, where it 
rests not only upon class but on colour. 

I find that in writing of Helen I have written in the past 
tense as if she were dead. In fact, she is in Israel, and 
perhaps she will not return to her own country. Certainly 
she will not do so if it means, as the African speaker said, 
being "buried alive." 

She was sitting in her office at Entokozweni one after 
noon a few months ago when two Special Branch detec 
tives arrived. In a sense she had been expecting them, for 
she knew full well that she had been under surveillance 
for a long time. They gave her a document and stood over 
her whilst she read it. It stated in effect that she must re- 



sign from her present job and from all committees or so 
cieties, and it banned her from all gatherings for five years. 
She was still free to work as a typist in an office or as a 
factory hand or as an artist's model. She could still have a 
latchkey of her own and travel on public transport and 
have a cup of tea with her aunt. She was free, in fact, to do 
anything except what gave life meaning: the work for 
which she was trained, the fulfilment of a vocation. And, 
in addition, she had allowed her South African passport to 
expire and would certainly not get another. The new Pass 
port Regulation Act would be gazetted in a week or two. 
Once it had become law it would be a criminal offence 
with very heavy penalties for anyone to transport her 
across the Union's boundaries by land or air. She had to 
make her decision almost immediately, either to stay in 
South Africa unable to do the work she was qualified to do 
or to leave her country and try to find fulfilment elsewhere. 
She chose the latter. But I shall never forget the hour or 
two of discussion we had together when she was struggling 
to see some light, to make the right decision, knowing it 
would alter the whole course of her life. 

Before she left, her workers at Entokozweni organised 
the protest meeting which I have described, a meeting 
which she could not attend without arrest and punish 
ment. Two or three hundred people on the dry and deso 
late veldt at Alexandra on a Sunday morning; the police in 
their car, lounging and listening at the same time; a small 
group of men appearing unexpectedly with the black, 
green, and yellow flag of the African National Congress. 
It was not a very impressive gathering by any standards. 
Yet as I sat waiting my turn to speak I thought how won 
derful it was really. How wonderful that here in National 
ist South Africa, in the heart of a "black spot/ 7 in a place 



where African nationalism itself is at its strongest, a protest 
meeting should be held, a protest called and addressed by 
Africans (I was the only European speaker) because a 
white woman was being forcibly removed from amongst 
them after only three and a half years in their midst. Per 
haps it only seems wonderful to those of us who live in the 
Union. And perhaps the only way of putting it into its con 
text is to imagine the unimaginable to think of a group of 
two or three hundred white South Africans protesting 
against the removal of an African. It is unthinkable. It 
could not happen. Such is the measure of European folly 
and wickedness that it is hard indeed to believe there is 
a solution. 

Oliver Tambo and Helen Navid are personal friends of 
mine. That is why I have told their story to illustrate one 
aspect of the attack upon personal freedom in our country 
today. But they represent so many more who, in one way 
or another, are "buried alive." Freedom of movement no 
longer exists in its own right in South Africa. It is a privi 
lege conferred or withheld by those who presently guide 
the destinies of the state. 

And even the shock of some fresh incident seems to have 
lost its power to disturb the great mass of European citi 
zens; they have grown used to the idea of a controlled and 
limited freedom; they have grown used to servitude. 

One of the objects dearest to my heart is that of trying 
to open up to African boys and girls a wider and a fuller 
life. It seems to me that that is part of the meaning of the 
Christian faith itself, springing from a belief in the fact 
that God became man and, if He was prepared to pour 
His fullness into human nature, then human nature itself 
must be capable of such richness, must be made to receive 
it. Within South Africa itself it is hard indeed to open up 



any fields of opportunity except for a few. So it was with 
tremendous joy that I received a letter from the United 
States (again through Alan Paton) offering a bursary at 
Kent School, Connecticut, to any boy I chose. The offer 
could scarcely have been more generous or more oppor 
tune. Kent, I remembered, was one of the best schools in 
America: an Anglican foundation with a very strong Cath 
olic tradition and with a very notable record of achieve 
ment in sport as well as in other directions. It had opened 
its doors to Negroes in the States and now wanted an 
African boy to share its treasures. All expenses would be 
paid, and he could come at once by air. 

Naturally I was as careful as I knew how to be in se 
lecting the boy. He had to be not only intelligent but 
adaptable, a good mixer, a lad whose home background 
would be not too far removed from that of the boys with 
whom he would soon be living. When I chose Stephen 
Ramasodi it was because I believed him to have all the 
right qualifications. I knew, of course, that there might be 
grave difficulties over getting him a passport. I knew, too, 
that if my own name were connected with him it would 
only intensify the difficulties. So in all the negotiations 
which followed, I asked the headmaster of our school to 
sign the letters and to do whatever else was required. Noth 
ing, however, could disguise the fact that Stephen was at 
St. Peter's School, Rosettenville; and the police were well 
aware that of that school I was the superintendent. 

The application was sent in in April. Three weeks later 
the boy was called for a police interrogation. A day or two 
after that he received a letter: "With reference to your 
proposed visit to the United States, we regret we are not 
prepared to issue a Certificate of Character/' That was all. 

Stephen is a lad of sixteen, not at all interested in poli- 



tics, never in any way connected with crime, his father the 
principal of a government school. The Certificate of Char 
acter which would have cleared the way for a passport was 
refused for no reason: of that I am certain. But Stephen 
was at school at St. Peter's, Rosettenville. However, I was 
not prepared to let this refusal deter me, and after inquir 
ing at the American Consulate whether they would give 
him a visa without the certificate, and having been assured 
that they would, I pressed forward with the application. 
It would be tedious to describe in detail the endless for 
malities, the weekly inquiries, the interventions of influen 
tial people which had to be suffered during the following 
two months. As I have already said, a passport, like free 
dom, is in South Africa a privilege conferred by the state, 
not a right possessed by the subject. I began to get desper 
ate when the time of Stephen's departure for America drew 
near and still there was no indication that he was free to 
go. Each time I made inquiries I was told that a decision 
would be made the following week. I knew that in fact the 
decision would not be made at all unless it was forced upon 
the authorities. The only way I could hope to succeed 
would be by some pressure from public opinion both 
within and without South Africa. Fortunately I had many 
friends in the press and I informed them, and all foreign 
correspondents I could reach, of the whole situation. When 
the passport was refused, every newspaper in the country 
and many in the United States and in England had the 
facts and used them. For the first time, the government 
issued a statement giving reasons for its refusal. "It would 
not be in the best interests of the boy. . . ." He would 
return to his own country "with a shattered dream. . . . 
He was too young to benefit from such a bursary at 
present. . . " 



The fact that his parents desired him to go and were 
prepared if necessary for him never to return; the fact that 
in America Stephen would be able to choose a profession 
closed to him in South Africa; the fact that he was going 
to a church school when in the Union almost all church 
schools had ceased to exist because of the Bantu Educa 
tion Act; the fact that for months he had set his heart on 
this marvellous adventure all these things counted for 
nothing. The state had decided. The state knew best. The 
state, where Africans are concerned, always knows best. 
And if, in the opinion of the minister, Stephen Ramasodi 
must remain behind South Africa's "Iron Curtain/* then 
there was nothing more to be said. 

I took a different view of the situation. It seemed, and 
seems, to me such an outrageous violation of the whole 
Christian doctrine of man that I cannot rest until I have 
done all that lies in my power to overthrow the decision. 
Perhaps when this book appears in print I shall have suc 
ceeded; perhaps again I shall have failed. I have faith! But 
at least no one in South Africa will be in ignorance of the 
principles involved in the matter. The Archer-Shea case in 
England, so brilliantly re-created in The Winslow Boy, has 
been an inspiration to me in this equally vital struggle for 
justice. It is a struggle I truly enjoy when it centres, as it 
does here, upon a particular person. Somehow, then, lifted 
away from abstract theorising, one can see it more clearly; 
one can realise that to acquiesce is treason not merely to 
one's ideals but to one's God. And besides, I know Stephen, 
and I know the hidden treasures and ambitions, at least 
a little, which are in his own heart. Whilst the passport 
negotiations were dragging on I had to go to Southern 
Rhodesia for a fortnight. At the same time Stephen had to 
go into hospital for a minor operation. I had a letter from 


him, written just after the operation. The anaesthetic had 
somehow gone wrong; there had been a crisis, and oxygen 
was necessary to get him round. "They told me," he wrote, 
"that I nearly died. But of course I knew I should not 

die. God could not possibly disappoint me about Amer- 

ica. . . . 

God could not. Dr. Verwoerd could. And did. 

There is, of course, an underlying unity about the stories 
of Oliver, Helen, and Stephen. They are three examples 
of a simple development that has taken place in South 
Africa over the past few years. Quite apart from the fifty- 
seven citizens who are unable to get passports, there are 
scores, indeed hundreds, of citizens whose freedom of 
movement is so restricted as to be nonexistent in the true 
sense of the word "freedom." Using the Suppression of 
Communism Act or the Criminal Law Amendment Act or 
the Public Safety Act or the Native Urban Areas Act, it is 
possible to make a man a prisoner in his own town. It is 
equally possible to deport him from his own town to an 
isolated dorp in the back veldt. It is not only possible, it 
happens quite often. And those whose stories I have told 
are not in any way the worst examples I could quote. We 
shall see worse things happening in the course of the next 
few years, but we shall perhaps no longer count them worse 
because we shall have lost the taste for freedom. It is al 
ready fast slipping from us. "Eternal vigilance" is too high 
a price for South Africans to pay. What is astonishing about 
this situation is not that it exists (for a nationalism such as 
ours is bound to produce it) but that it exists with so little 
protest. It prompts me to ask two questions, and the first 
of them is this: "What price Commonwealth citizenship?" 
The Statute of Westminster, in conferring freedom upon 
the Dominions to develop towards full nationhood, con- 



f erred freedom upon them also to remain within or to con 
tract out of the Commonwealth. South Africa chose the 
former at that time and has continued to abide by her 
choice. In so doing she has received many benefits, eco 
nomic, strategic, and cultural; she has also made her 
material contribution to the wealth and to the defence of 
the society of nations to which she belongs. But today, 
with a government determined not only upon a republican 
form of state but upon a racial policy totally at variance 
with that of every other country in the Commonwealth, 
the question has relevance. "What price Commonwealth 
citizenship ?" or rather, "What use?" Presumably the non- 
European peoples of South Africa are reckoned to be citi 
zens, if not of their own country, at least of that wider 
society which acknowledges the Queen to be its head? But 
to what end? They are unable to move freely in their own 
land; they are unable to move out of it, even into adjacent 
territories acknowledging the same Sovereign. In the mak 
ing of laws which restrict their freedom they have no voice 
and no means whatever of making their views known. In 
the most essential issues which affect their liberty they 
have no simple access to the courts; in many such issues no 
access. and no appeal whatever. 

It may seem ridiculously naive to English or American 
ears to hear, as I have constantly heard, the question: 
"But can t the Queen help us?" Yet there is a realism be 
hind that question which we shall ignore to our peril. There 
is no purpose in a loyalty either to Queen or Common 
wealth if neither meets your life at any point. There is a 
fearful cynicism about the catch phrases "free association 
of free peoples," "constitutional sovereignty," and the like 
when you are trying to explain to an intelligent African 
boy why he cannot hold a British passport or move out of 



the country to complete his education. In factlet us ac 
knowledge it frankly to the African in South Africa, Com 
monwealth citizenship means nothing. It seems only to 
accentuate an ugly truth that, somehow or other, his Sov 
ereign must condone the state of servitude in which he 

The second question I would ask is even more funda 
mental, at least to Christians. It is with that question, 
essentially, that the whole of this book is concerned. Why, 
if the person is of infinite dignity in the sight of God, does 
the Church accept so complacently the constant invasions 
upon personal liberty which occur in South Africa? 

Let me be explicit. I do not mean by "the Church" simply 
the hierarchy, the archbishops and bishops, the leaders of 
the various denominations which claim to be Christian 
bodies. I mean the Church in its Pauline sense as that living 
organism which has "many members" and which is also 
the Divine Society, the whole family of God. 

It is but rarely in history that the hierarchy takes a pro 
phetic view or a prophetic initiative against evil. Perhaps 
that is because its chief function is to guard the truth rather 
than to proclaim it. A Thomas & Becket, a Faulhaber, a 
William Temple are conspicuous because they occur so in 
frequently. They are in no way typical. Yet when evil 
appears, and especially when evil shows itself in an attack 
upon personal freedom, surely then, if ever, the Christian 
conscience should awake and should see to it that the 
Church not only speaks but acts! Nothing of the kind has 
happened in South Africa. We like to think it has. We like 
to think that "the voice of the Church" uttering through 
official channels its condemnation of the different acts or 
measures is a proof of its vigour and its life. Yet we know 
very well that these utterances have been totally ineffective 



in preventing inroads upon personal freedom and that 
when particular persons have been attacked and shackled 
in this way no united effort has been made by the Church 
to aid them. The blunt truth is that the Church, the ordi 
nary Christian man and woman, is not prepared to regard 
the state as an aggressor in South Africa. The Church is 
conniving at a policy which openly proclaims itself one of 
racial domination, of "white supremacy/' of baasskap, be 
cause it fears that any effective or determined opposition 
will lose it the allegiance of its white members. The Church 
is in the deadly grip of fear; it is mesmerised by the power 
it thinks it sees in the hands of the government; it sits pa 
tiently, like the rabbit before the cobra, awaiting the next 
move and hoping (perhaps even praying) for a diversion 
which will allow it to scuttle to its den unharmed. 

In the meanwhile personal liberty has reached vanish 
ing point, and that human dignity which the Church is 
pledged to protect can hardly survive. 

"Like a mighty army moves the Church of God/' we sing 
with gusto and emotion. We do not believe a word of it. 
And because we do not believe a word of it, African Chris 
tians in the next two generations will find it very hard 
indeed to justify their allegiance. 


IX. Education for Servitude 

WHEN THE Ministry for Ecclesiastical Affairs was set up in 
Germany on July 16, 1935, it was emphasised that "Adolf 
Hitler's government does not fight against churches or re 
ligious denominations. It rather gathers them under its 
wings for protection, whenever they have mental tasks to 
perform. . . ." 

The report of the Eiselen Commission on Native Educa 
tion, appointed in 1949 and providing the basis for the 
Bantu Education Act, said, amongst other things: ". . . the 
Commission . . . expresses the opinion that the best results 
are obtainable in education as elsewhere from co-operation 
and that in accepting public grants for educational pur 
poses the Churches become the trustees and AGENTS OF THE 
STATE whose business it is to educate the people. . . /* 
(E.R. para. 607.) 

In another context the report states: "The aims of Bantu 
education are the development of character and intellect, 
and the equipping of the child for his future work and 
surroundings," a statement expanded and clarified by the 
Minister of Native Affairs, Dr. Verwoerd, when he said in 
the Senate: "The school must equip him [the native] to 
meet the demands which the economic life of South Africa 
WILL IMPOSE UPON HIM. . . . There is no place for the na 
tive in European society above the level of certain forms 
of labour." 



"The racial state," wrote Adolf Hitler in his early days 
of ebullience, "must build up its entire educational work, 
in the first instance not on the pumping in of empty knowl 
edge, but on the development of healthy bodies." One final 
quotation from Dr. Verwoerd, revealing because it was 
made in the midst of debate when introducing the bill it 
self: "I want to remind Honourable Members that if the 
native in South Africa today, in any kind of school in 
existence, is being taught to expect that he will live his 
adult life under a policy of equal rights, he is making a 
big mistake." 

There can be no question that, of all apartheid legisla 
tion during the past eight years of Nationalist rule, the 
Bantu Education Act is by far the most important and by 
far the most deadly in its effect. Yet in fact that act passed 
through both Houses with the greatest ease and with the 
minimum of opposition except from one or two of the na 
tive representatives. Today it is being implemented effi 
ciently and very swiftly all over the country. Yet its 
consequences will be so grave for the African people that 
they may take a generation or more to recover from them. 

One of the reasons why the Bantu Education Act caused 
so little stir when it was passing through its various stages 
in Parliament was because so few white South Africans 
had any real knowledge of the state of African education 
anyhow. I would guarantee that nine out of ten, if asked, 
would have said that the native schools were run by the 
government. Nine out of ten would have had no concep 
tion either of the type of education given or the method 
of its financing or of the colour of the teachers' skins. As 
I have already said elsewhere, the only real interest of the 
European in native education lies in the master-servant re 
lationship: in the production of a sufficient standard of 



literacy for efficient and obedient subjection. It is there 
fore necessary, if the full implications of the Bantu Edu 
cation Act are to be understood, to give very briefly a 
picture of the situation as it was before the act came into 
force on April i, 1955. 

In the first place, at a conservative estimate, not more 
than one third of the African children of schoolgoing age 
were (or are) in school at all. In many districts the pro 
portion is probably nearer one in five. There is no com 
pulsory education for the African and of course no age 
limit. Of those who were able to get into school, an ex 
tremely high percentage left at very low standards. In 
1948, for instance, over 50 per cent of the children were 
in the sub-standards: only 3.48 per cent were in standard 
six (the top form in the elementary school). The reason 
for this leakage is not far to seek, for in a society where 
families are large and incomes small the sooner the chil 
dren can go out to work, the quicker there will be some 
relief economically for the whole household. No one, 
therefore, could look with complacency on the existing 
state of affairs. There was need for immediate action and 
reform. There was need, above all, for generous state aid 
financially. (It is not without significance that only 2.66 
is spent annually on every African child of schoolgoing 
age. The corresponding figure for the European child is 
43.88.) Certainly there was need for reform. And those 
of us who had been involved in African education as super 
intendents of mission schools had been urging such reform 
for many years without avail. We knew that the pioneer 
ing days were over; that it was fantastic to imagine that 
any purely voluntary organisation such as a church or a 
missionary society could alone handle or be responsible for 
the educating of a nation, still less of a nation so avid for 



education as the African people. Yet, in fact, the position 
was that in 1945 there were 4360 mission schools and only 
230 government schools, and, of those 230 government 
schools, four fifths had been built only within the previous 
twenty years. The process had been what one would ex 
pect. Over a hundred years ago, when European missions 
started educational work in South Africa, they started it 
alone. They had to erect the buildings, pay the teachers, 
superintend the school in every detail, try to give to it the 
particular Christian "colour" for which it existed. 

As the years passed, so their standards improved. From 
the open-air lesson under the gum tree they progressed to 
the Kimberley-brick classroom with one side open to the 
sun and the wind. (There are in the country plenty of 
such schools to this day.) But soon, as the demand in 
creased and as it was proved that the African could "take" 
education in a big way, it was obvious that far more money 
and far better buildings would be required. The great in 
stitutions like Lovedale, Mariannhill, Adams, and the rest 
began to emerge not only as buildings with a dignity of 
their own but as schools with a character, as places where 
names spelt tradition. And from those schools Africans 
also emerged with ideals moulded in the pattern of West 
ern Christian culture and with ambitions . . . with am 
bitions. . . . 

Meanwhile the process of industrialisation in South 
Africa, as everywhere else in the modern world, had cre 
ated a permanent and growing African population in the 
great cities. Johannesburg and the Reef at first, then 
Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, all acted as magnets 
and drew thousands of labourers from the scorched and 
eroded countryside to the vital, vigorous, and often vicious 
towns. Schools again became an essential endeavour for 



all Christian bodies working in the urban areas. Thousands 
of pounds were invested in buildings and thousands of 
hours in the work of superintendence. It was not until 1925 
that any considerable sums were voted by the state to aid 
the missions in their colossal endeavours. From that date 
onwards, however, every mission received grants-in-aid 
and corresponding state control began to be exercised. 
From haphazard beginnings a system was developed 
whereby each of the four provinces was responsible for 
the supervision of its African schools, for the syllabuses 
taught therein, and for the inspectorate. Money was voted 
by the state to each province for this purpose. The newer 
system fell under the control of the Minister of Education. 
But in fact practically all capital expenditure on buildings 
the addition of new schools or new classrooms, the day- 
to-day administration of the institutions still rested with 
the missions. Whereas no mission could continue to exist 
without state aid (teachers' salaries and school equipment 
being its chief purpose), 90 per cent of African education 
was, at every level from primary to teacher-training, in the 
hands of one or other of the missionary bodies until March 
31, 1955. That it was hopelessly inadequate to the present 
situation no one, least of all the Christian missionary, 
would wish to deny. At the beginning of every year we 
had the heartbreaking task of turning away thousands of 
children from our schools because there was no room for 
them. We had to watch the melancholy effects of a fearful 
overcrowding in the classrooms, particularly in the lower 
grades. We knew that many of our buildings were far too 
primitive for the needs of today, yet we simply had not 
the money with which to replace them. We tried to cope 
with the tragedy of the out-of-school child by starting 
afternoon schools, for which the parents paid fees, and 



out of these fees teachers' salaries of a sort could be met. 

In the meanwhile the African people themselves were 
determined to meet the situation somehow; to see to it, 
if they possibly could, that their children received some 
education, however meagre. Empty garages, disused 
church halls, the back yards of private houses became pri 
vate schools. By a strange irony there were quite a large 
number of teachers out of work, because, although only a 
third of the children were in school, there were no schools 
for the rest to go to. Teachers were there; classrooms were 
not. Many women, trained for the teaching profession, ac 
cepted salaries of 2.ios. or 3 a month and taught the 
children in their private schools. They had to be heroic in 
their sense of vocation: nothing else would have held them 
to their task. Many times I have gone round to the school 
in Tucker Street, an old crumbling red brick chapel, its 
windows broken, its wooden floor curving and cracking 
under the weight of children sitting there, a hundred, two 
hundred perhaps, their slates in their hands, no desks, no 
benches, no blackboards, no books. . . . Just the teacher 
sitting at a rickety wooden table, trying to hold their at 
tention . . . "Say after me ... c-a-t . . . say it. . . ." 
There are at this present moment, and in spite of the pen 
alties now imposed by law on illicit private schools, thou 
sands of African children who will owe their literacy at 
least to this struggling and unrewarded band of women. 

Such was the situation at the end of the first century 
or so of missionary struggle in the field of African educa 
tion. It presented an exceedingly grim problem, but it had 
its encouraging features. It was quite clear that, given the 
opportunity, the African school could produce the goods: 
not in great numbers, obviously, for there were always 
enormous obstacles, economic and otherwise, to overcome. 



But a steady stream of cultured (as opposed to merely 
"educated") Africans was leaving tiie schools, proceeding 
to Fort Hare or the Witwatersrand or Cape Town univer 
sities, and beginning to make its mark on society. We at 
St. Peter's, Rosettenville, had been the first school in the 
Transvaal at which Africans could take Matric. That was 
in the early 1930'$. Already we had produced priests, doc 
tors, lawyers, and teachers of high quality by any stand 
ards. One of our old boys is presently lecturer in applied 
mathematics at Fort Hare and was described by his tutor 
as one of the most brilliant mathematicians he had ever 
taught. But every mission institution of any size could 
boast a similar record. Our problem lay not so much in 
turning out the men and women who could make progress 
in the professions: it lay in finding the opportunity (and 
that meant the money and the opening) for such fulfil 
ment. The worst days in the year for me were always those 
at the end of the exams, when the children whom I had 
known and loved at school came to ask me what they were 
to do next . , . what they could do to further their studies 
. . . what profession they could make their own. But that 
is another story, and in a sense this book is a comment 
upon it also. 

I have tried to show as fairly as I can the background of 
the Bantu Education Act. And surely, on any at all objec 
tive analysis of that background, three things emerge quite 

First, the fact that, apart from missionary effort, there 
would have been no African education in South Africa 
at all. 

Second, the fact that by 1930-40 the pioneering work 
of the missions had been done and the position reached 



where state schools and far more generous state subsi 
disation were both essential if progress were to be.main- 

Third, the fact that in equity the missions had the 
right to guard what they had so laboriously won for the 
African people: an educational system which, however 
imperfect, was based upon the Christian faith itself and 
the traditions of Western Christian culture and civilisa 

In 1949 the government appointed a Commission on Na 
tive Education, and its chairman was Dr. W. W. M. 
Eiselen, a former Chief Inspector of>Native Education in 
the Transvaal. No single missionary and no one represent 
ing the mission schools was a member of the commission. 
Neither, of course, was there any representative of the Afri 
can people. The commission spent some two years hearing 
evidence, and when its report was issued it was a massive 
volume of over two hundred foolscap pages printed in 
double columns. No one could criticise the thoroughness 
or the factual accuracy of the report. It gave a complete 
and most exhaustive statement of the history of African 

As soon as there had been time for digestion, the South 
African Institute of Race Relations sponsored a conference 
at the university to consider the findings. I was present 
at the conference, which was notable for the eminence of 
its speakers and chairman, notable also for the apparent 
unwillingness of the government to send anything like a 
representative group, notable also for the unanimous re 
jection of the basic principles underlying the report. 

"In general," ran the summary of Aims of Bantu Edu 
cation, "the function of education is to transmit the cul- 



ture of a society from its more mature to its immature 
members, and in so doing develop their powers'* (para. 
754); and again: "Education must be co-ordinated into a 
definite and carefully planned policy for the development 
of Bantu societies"; and again: "The Bantu child comes to 
school with a basic physical and psychological endowment 
which differs . . . so slightly if at all [italics mine] from 
that of the European child that no special provision has 
to be made in educational theory or basic aims." It was 
not difficult for the skilled and highly experienced educa 
tionists taking part in the conference to point out the 
strange contradictions of a report which on the one hand 
emphasised so strongly the need to preserve "traditional 
Bantu culture" and on the other could not produce any 
concrete evidence that that culture existed or was worth 
preserving. It was not hard, either, to criticise that amaz 
ing paradox which with one voice proclaimed that the 
African child had no real physical or psychological dif 
ferences from the European and with another shouted 
more aggressively that the type of education given to the 
one was totally unsuitable to the other. 

The Eiselen report was condemned, however, not so 
much for the detailed proposals for reform which it ad 
vocated, many of which are of obvious merit and indeed 
of necessity. The Institute of Race Relations a body which 
is very widely representative of "liberal" opinion in South 
Africa and which could not be called specifically Christian 
in its approach condemned the report for its basic as 
sumptions. It was these that were wrong and that, if acted 
upon, could give a wrong bias to education for genera 
tions. What, then, are these assumptions? What is their 
inherent evil? They can really be reduced to one quite 
simple statement; a statement which, I feel sure, neither 



Dr. Eiselen nor Dr. Verwoerd will quarrel with. In sum, 
the Eiselen report recommended and the Bantu Educa 
tion Act implemented the creation of a new form of 
education in South Africa. It was to be called "Bantu Ed 
ucation." It was to be separate entirely from education it 
self. To make that separation it was to be geared into a 
whole new plan for Bantu development, of which it would 
be but one element; important, but secondary, to the whole 

To make quite certain that "Bantu Education" would be 
of a new and other parentage than education, the minister 
responsible for it would be not the Minister of Education 
but, of course, the Minister of Native Affairs. In other 
words, the Bantu Education Act and the Eiselen commis 
sion report on which it is based are the essential and ab 
solutely logical corollaries of the apartheid policy of South 
Africa. It is essential to that policy, because unless you can 
begin by indoctrinating the children you will have little 
hope of persuading the adult. If, as I believe, apartheid is 
itself subordinate to the idea of "white supremacy now and 
always," it is certainly most necessary to start with the 
young: the younger the better. It is logical, too, to use the 
educational machinery provided for you in a way most 
certain to discredit those who have provided it; by assur 
ing the African that the missionary was making such a mess 
of things that it needed a benevolent government to clear 
it up; to give you what the churches were not able or were 
not willing to give an education suited to the Bantu en 
vironment, conditioned by the Bantu tradition, based as 
far as possible upon Bantu tribal ethics. Such an education 
must necessarily, as Dr. Verwoerd said in the Senate in 
June 1954, "stand with both feet in the Reserve." It must 



also be freed, once for all, from the malign influence of 
Christian missions. 

The Bantu Education Act is a short document. It states 
little beyond the fact that from the date of its enactment 
the control of African education passes to the Department 
of Native Affairs. 

In August 1954 all mission superintendents received the 
first of a number of official circulars stating how that trans 
fer would take place. It amounted to an ultimatum, for 
the choice given to the missions was a simple one. By De 
cember 1954 the mission schools and institutions must 
either hand themselves over entirely to the state and lose 
their identity as mission schools, or they must accept a cut 
in subsidy which would allow them temporarily to con 
tinue in existence but which would in a short while be so 
extended as to reduce the subsidy to nothing. No teacher- 
training institutions could continue under the control of 
missions. No private schools could exist without the per 
mission of the minister. Heavy penalties would be imposed 
on any individual or group attempting to evade the reg 
ulations. This circular was, in effect, the death of African 
mission schools. We at St. Peter's had already discussed 
our plans in the light of the Eiselen report. We knew what 
we should do, and within a week of receiving our circular 
we had notified the government of our intention to close 
the school. We were fully aware of what we were doing 
and of the hardship and suffering it would involve for 
many of our children and teachers. Yet we believed that 
only by demonstrating in a clear and unmistakable fash 
ion our opposition to the whole basis of the act could we 
best continue to serve the African people. We could neither 
accept the principle of apartheid education nor assist in 
its implementation in any way. 



I wrote an article for the Star and subsequently a 
pamphlet called The Death of a School, in which I tried 
to explain the position to the public; a public almost totally 
unaware of the issues involved and, where aware of them, 
almost totally apathetic. 

In the meanwhile the various Christian bodies were 
meeting and expressing their views on the subject. Five 
months was not long for making up one's mind on how to 
meet this new and crushing development. It was not un 
like the position of the patient awaiting the amputation of 
both legs and being told at the same time that he must 
look for a new job. Every church authority in the country, 
with the single exception of the Dutch Reformed Church 
(who, to do it justice, had consistently urged state control 
for all mission schools), condemned the act and the meas 
ures which flowed from the act. The minister was ap 
proached directly and indirectly by the different churches 
and urged to reconsider his decisions. The tragic mistake, 
as I shall always believe, lay in the failure of the churches 
to act together. I am convinced that had, say, the Method 
ists, the Roman Catholics, the Presbyterians, and the An 
glicans united for once on this single issue, had they 
approached the Prime Minister and stated that in con 
science they could not co-operate in the implementation 
of the act, at least some major concessions would have 
been won. 

Whilst each church individually protested, argued 
against, and condemned the rape of its schools, none, ap 
parently, could take the initiative in urging a total refusal 
to surrender. A few institutions followed the same line as 
St. Peter's. The rest pursued a policy of "wait and see." 
Already, from within the mission camp, voices were heard 
whispering the insidious and fatal fallacies which so many 



ears were longing to hear. "After all, it may not work out 
so badly. . . . The inspectors are good men. . . . Ver- 
woerd does not have anything to do with the working out 
of the plan. . . . African teachers wont teach inferiority. 
. . . Anyhow, what can we do?" It was the voice of Vichy. 
It is that voice which, by and large, has prevailed. 

Although the Anglican Church had condemned the act 
as heartily as every other Christian body, when it came 
to the point of deciding how to translate her opposition 
into reality it was another story. 

Of course we were placed in a cruel dilemma: a dilemma 
all the more cruel because it involved making decisions 
which would affect the lives of children, of those who 
could have no possible part in the decisions or in their 
effect. If we refused to hand over our school buildings to 
the government, thousands of children would be on the 
street. If we accepted the temporary subsidy, we could 
neither afford to keep the majority of our schools open, 
nor could we envisage any hope of continuance when the 
subsidy was withdrawn (in 1957, as we now know) . More 
over, we would simply be aiding the government by mak 
ing it easier for them to take control, giving them time 
to prepare their administrative machinery. In the end, ev 
ery diocese of the Anglican Church in South Africa save 
one Johannesburg capitulated to the demands of the 
government. It was better, said the Archbishop of Cape 
Town, for children to have a rotten education than none 

With the exception of the Roman Catholic and Seventh- 
Day Adventist churches, every other missionary body took 
the same line. It would be most presumptuous and most 
impertinent to pass judgment on any of them for so doing. 
I am personally convinced, however, and every day that 



passes deepens my conviction, that the Bishop of Jo 
hannesburg was right. History, I believe, will endorse my 
opinion and will vindicate his courageous and lonely stand 
on principle. 

The Johannesburg Diocese, St. Peter's School, and one 
or two other institutions (notably Modderpoort in the 
Free State and Adam's in Natal) have chosen the path of 
"death with honour." For doing so we have been soundly 
rated not only by State Information officers (that was only 
to be expected) but by many of our fellow Christians and 
by most of those who, a few months ago, were loudest in 
their condemnation of the Bantu Education Act. The hard 
est thing, perhaps, in the world is to stand by the principle 
to the end and, "having done all, to stand." It is made 
much harder when one is caught up into the deep and 
bitter suffering of the people one loves most dearly. 

The suffering of the African people through the Bantu 
Education Act is peculiarly hard both to assess and to de 
scribe. Perhaps I am in as good a position as any European 
to try to do so; and it is most important that someone 
should try, for it is freely claimed by the government that 
Bantu Education is not only most acceptable to the Afri 
can people but that they themselves have said so. It is pos 
sible to point to the fact that the transference of schools 
has taken place with little trouble; that the boycott or 
ganised by the African National Congress has failed, ex 
cept in one or two centres; that the parents have themselves 
refused to take part in the boycott; that the school boards, 
composed of Africans, are beginning to get down to work; 
that in public speeches various teachers of standing have 
acclaimed the Bantu Education Act and have rejoiced at 
the end of missionary control. The Information Office of 
the Department of Native Affairs has devoted a great deal 



of time and energy to the whole issue, and both, in South 
Africa and overseas the propaganda line is that the Afri 
can people, if left to themselves and the government, 
would be more than content with the Bantu Education 
Act. It is only agitation, "liberalists" (a new and now fa 
miliar term of abuse), and "misguided clerics" who create 
opposition and mistrust. What is the truth? 

As I have already tried to make clear, no one dare claim 
that mission schools were perfect, were even within meas 
urable distance of perfection. There were certainly excel 
lent reasons for reform. But, most of all, there were 
excellent reasons for a more generous financial policy 
which would have enabled the missions to equip them 
selves for their colossal task more adequately. There was, 
too, a time, which I remember well, when teachers were 
dissatisfied not only with their salaries but also with their 
conditions of service in mission schools. They had many 
reasons for such dissatisfaction. But there was never a time 
when it was possible to compare government schools, and 
conditions in those schools, with mission schools, for by 
and large, government schools did not exist. 

It is, therefore, of some significance that today, in 
Sophiatown, where there are many schools now operating 
under the Bantu Education authority, there is an oppor 
tunity to make comparison. Our Anglican school closed in 
obedience to the bishop's decision to refuse co-operation 
with government. It re-opened a month later as a private 
school without subsidy and therefore had to charge a fee 
of ten shillings per month in order to pay its teachers. In 
spite of the fact that education in all the other schools is 
free, this school has an attendance of six hundred children 
and a waiting list as long again. 

The truth is that the parents have no choice; or, rather, 



they are faced with the same hideous dilemma: "Bantu 
education" or the street. The African National Congress, 
foreseeing the immense difficulties and the problem con 
fronting the people, decided nevertheless to urge a total 
boycott of all schools. It was to be left to each area to de 
cide on the most suitable moment for this action. In certain 
places, Alexandra Township, Brakpan, Western Native 
Township, Germiston, Benoni (all the Reef), the boycott 
was considerable. Thousands of children stayed away from 
school on a particular day in protest. It is, after all, a 
technique not unknown in other countries, and it is in 
South Africa absolutely within the law, for there is no com 
pulsory education. Nevertheless, Dr. Verwoerd decided to 
regard the boycott as an act of rebellion. The seven thou 
sand children who took part in it were told that they would 
not be allowed in any school again. The parents of all Af 
rican children were warned that any further attempts at 
such a demonstration would lead to permanent exclusion 
from school for any children allowed to take part in it. 
Schools affected by the boycott lost their teachers' salary 
grants, and the teachers lost their jobs. 

In face of such drastic measures, it was small cause for 
wonder that the boycott as a whole failed to materialise. 
To plead that children are always politically innocent is 
of no avail with the government of South Africa. Boycott 
becomes a crime because it means opposition to govern 
ment policy. The African child is penalised in the way 
that hurts most, by deprivation of schooling, because he 
is involved in a protest against apartheid. 

In certain areas the boycott was effective. For several 
days schools were empty. Some seven thousand children 
were kept out of the classrooms, and their teachers were 
idle. Those children (or rather their parents) were told 



that they must not attend school again. Teachers were 
warned by the government not to accept "boycott" chil 
dren in their institutions. The door of education must be 
closed in punishment for the crime of rebellion of rebel 
lion not against law, but against Dr. Verwoerd. 

Not long after all this had happened I went to see for 
myself what was being done for these children innocents 
who had now been driven permanently on to the streets 
of their locations to join the already vast mass of out-of- 
school Africans. I went first to Benoni, one of the older 
African locations on the Reef. I drove into the heart of the 
township and stopped the car outside a dilapidated build 
ing which had once been a cinema. With Robert Resha, a 
Congress leader in the Western Areas, I entered the build 
ing. It was very dark. What light there was filtered through 
two holes high up in the walls, where bricks had been re 
moved just for that purpose. At first it was impossible to 
see; my eyes had to grow accustomed to the gloom. Then 
gradually the light fell upon a mass of heads, upon a crowd 
of children of all sizes, of all ages, gathered round a table. 
Seated at the table was a young African woman, trying to 
demonstrate some game, trying to keep fifty, a hundred 
children interested, or at least quiet. There were two or 
three other groups playing round the hall, or sitting on the 
dusty floor arranging letters into an alphabet, or just sit 
ting. . . . There was no blackboard; there were no school 
books; there were no benches. . . . This was a "Cultural 
Club," and such things as would equip a school would im 
mediately make it illegal. 

At Brakpan, a few miles farther on, the Cultural Club 
was meeting in the open air. As we drove up to the square 
there was a shout and a rush of children the enrolment 
that morning was over five hundred all with their thumbs 



raised in the Congress salute. Five or six ex-teachers had 
organised them into groups. They were playing games, 
making dolls out of pipe cleaners, knitting, sewing, even 
mending shoes. Here, as at Benoni, there was hardly any 
equipment for club work, nothing that could suggest a 
school. Yet there was an elan, a vitality about the whole 
place which was infectious. "When our children pass the 
children from the Bantu Education School/* said one of 
the organisers, "they put their thumbs up and cry out, 
'Verwoerd, Verwoerd . . /" Before we left Brakpan, the 
children were brought together into a semi-circle to sing 
to us. This, of course, is a familiar enough ending to every 
"official'' visit to a school in Africa. So were the tunes we 
heard. Only the words were different. "There are only two 
ways for Africa," they sang, "one way leads to Congress, 
and one way to Verwoerd. . . ." We drove away still hear 
ing the chorus of their last song, sung with great gusto and 
obvious enjoyment: "Down with Bantu Education. Down 
with Bantu Education. . . ." Some of the singers were only 
seven years old. 

At present it is a very small minority, both of teachers 
and parents (and consequently of children), who openly 
oppose the Bantu Education Act or at least who are pre 
pared to risk penalties for doing so. 

The government claims to have won the support of the 
great majority of Africans for the new system. It bases its 
claim on the fact that the new school boards are beginning 
to function, on the fact that parents as a whole have re 
fused to take part in boycotts, and on the continued ac 
ceptance by most of the teachers of their new status. 

I am convinced, however, that the Bantu Education Act 
and its implementation are the beginning of a resistance 
movement amongst the African people; that, however out- 



wardly compliant they may be, there burns beneath the 
surface a fire of fierce resentment which one day will get 
out of control. It cannot be otherwise. Bantu Education is 
one of the chief instruments of a policy of racialism whose 
avowed aim is the establishment of an enduring white 
supremacy. It is, indeed, an education for servitude. But 
it has come too late. It has come when, after more than a 
century of Christian education, the door is already open 
to a wider and freer world of vision. It will take more than 
Dr. Verwoerd to close that door. 


X. Out, Damned Spot 

IT is the morning of February 10, 1955. 1 stand once again 
where I have stood so many times before, at the low altar 
step in St. Mary Magdalene's chapel in the Church of 
Christ the King, Sophiatown. We begin the Preparation: 
"I will go unto the altar of God . . . even into the God of 
my joy and gladness. . . . Our help standeth in the name 
of the Lord . . . Who hath made heaven and earth. . . ." 
I notice it is Michael who kneels beside me to make the 
responses . . . how many times has he knelt just there in 
the past years? . . . And behind me, I know without look 
ing, there will be Seth Pilane, who never misses his daily 
Mass; there will be perhaps ten or fifteen members of the 
Guild; there will be the Sisters and some of the servers. 
... It is still dark outside, for it is only five o'clock and 
another hour to sunrise. Normally I would know exactly 
the appearance of the street outside, the familiar sounds of 
dawn in Sophiatown: the first steps of men walking down 
the hill to the bus stop, the clop-clop of the horses as they 
draw old Makudu's cart out of his yard for another day's 
coal-hawking, a baby crying, a cock crowing, distant voices 
as people greet each other in the half light. 

But today is not normal: not at all. In fact, I am saying 
Mass an hour early because it is "the Day"; because it is 
the beginning of the end of Sophiatown; because from now 
nothing will ever be the same again in this little corner of 



South Africa; because today the great Removal is begin 
ning, and all the people I know and the houses they live 
in will soon be scattered, and Sophiatown itself will crum 
ble into dust. 

"The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we 
beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten by the 
Father, full of grace and truth." I walk back to the sacristy 
and unvest, say my thanksgiving for this blessed and most 
strengthening Food, then out into the street. By the gate 
there is abeady a little group of men, waiting. They are 
the African correspondents of many of the British and over 
seas newspapers. There seem to be dozens of cameras, 
though it is still so dark that a photograph would be hard 
to get. A light rain is falling. Suddenly, from the corner 
out of sight, where Edward Road meets Ray Street down 
the dip, there comes a sound I have never heard in So 
phiatown before. It is the noise of men marching. The 
staccato "Hep, Hi, Hep . . . Hep, Hi, Hep . . ." getting 
louder; and in a moment they breast the hill and draw 
level with us. A flash bulb goes off. A detachment of African 
police under European command marches raggedly but 
purposefully past us down the hill. People appear from 
their houses in the darkness and stand, chattering but sub 
dued, to watch this new and unfamiliar sight. 

I walked with Douglas Brown of the Daily Telegraph 
and Leonard Ingalls of the New York Times down Victo 
ria Road to see what was happening. It was beginning to 
get light, but the rain was coming down hard. The bus 
queues were already forming, and as we passed, many of 
the men gave the Congress sign and greeted me cheerfully. 
One or two others ran across the road and shook me by 
the hand. It all looked very normal. It was only when we 
got to Toby Street that we began to understand how things 


were shaping: that we knew for certain that the REMOVAL, 
so long talked about, so often and so fiercely debated, had 
actually begun. On the broad belt of grass between the 
European suburb of Westdene and Sophiatown (we called 
that strip "the Colour Bar") a whole fleet of Army lorries 
was drawn up: a grim sight against the grey, watery sky. 
Lining the whole street were thousands of police, both 
white and black, the former armed with rifles and revolv 
ers, the latter with the usual assegai. A few Sten guns were 
in position at various points. A V.I.P. car, containing the 
Commissioner of Police and a mobile wireless unit (which 
we afterwards discovered was in hourly contact with the 
minister in Cape Town) patrolled up and down. 

"Where are they beginning?" 

"In the yard opposite the bus station, at the bottom of 
Toby Street. . . . Let's go." 

It was a fantastic sight. It looked more like a film set for 
an "atmospheric" Italian film than anything real. In the 
yard, military lorries were drawn up. Already they were 
piled high with the pathetic possessions which had come 
from the row of rooms in the background. A rusty kitchen 
stove; a few blackened pots and pans; a wicker chair; mat 
tresses belching out their coir stuffing; bundles of heaven- 
knows-what; and people, soaked, all soaked to the skin by 
the drenching rain. Above this strange and depressing 
crowd, perched on top of the van of a police truck were 
more cameras filming the scene below. I deliberately put 
my arm round Robert Resha's shoulders and looked up at 
the camera. 

"Move away there. . . . You've no right here. . . . Get 
out, I'm telling you. . . . Clear out of this yard." One of 
ficer was in a furious temper. Perhaps it was the rain, but I 
think it was the sight of me with my arm on an African 



shoulder. This man made a rush at one of the cameramen 
who was trying to get a shot of him, pushed his camera 
away, and might easily have broken it. 

We walked up the street. Whenever I stopped, a little 
group of Africans gathered round me. They were our 
people. But as soon as I started chatting, a policeman 
would come up and order me to move on. The Minister of 
Justice had imposed a ban on all gatherings. A chat in the 
street with a few friends was a gathering. I moved on, and 
the process was repeated a hundred yards farther on. ... 

The first lorries began to move off for Meadowlands 
eight miles away to the west. The rain poured down. The 
Removal was definitely under way. Two thousand police, 
armed; many foreign correspondents; dozens of photogra 
phers; a total ban on all gatherings, including (as was 
thought at the time) attendance at a church service. All 
this to effect a slum-clearance scheme which would be of 
lasting benefit to the "natives"; all this to carry through a 
plan which anyone could see to be a good plan; all this 
excitement and fuss and publicity over a project which, 
to any sensible European in South Africa, was a crying 
necessity if white civilisation was to be preserved. What 
was it all about? What were the principles involved? What 
was the Western Areas Removal Scheme anyway? These 
questions must be answered here in view of the immense 
interest shown in this matter by the world at large. Noth 
ing since Michael Scott's revelations about farming con 
ditions at Bethal has made so great an impact on the 
international press. Yet today, when the removal of sixty 
thousand people to Meadowlands is proceeding rapidly 
and Sophiatown begins to look like a blitzed area in Lon 
don, the moral and ethical implications of this scheme are 
barely understood, and if once they were debated they 



are now forgotten. Yet I believe that the Western Areas 
Removal Scheme to give it its official name will one day 
be recognised as a major issue of race relations in South 
Africa. We would do well to learn the lessons it has to 

In the first place, the Removal Scheme is no new idea. 
It was not even the invention of the Nationalist govern 
ment. It emerged as soon as the white suburbs of Johannes 
burg began to spread westward and to make their first 
contact with old Tobiansky's "mixed'' estate. It is now fifty 
years since Sophiatown was first occupied by Africans. It 
is over forty since Newclare (which is part of the Western 
Areas) was established and whites were specifically re 
stricted from residing in the township. It is nearly forty 
years since the Johannesburg Town Council was so con 
vinced of the non-European nature of that part of the city 
that it built its own location, the Western Native Town 
ship, in the heart of the area and ringed it with an iron 
fence. By 1920 no one would have questioned the fact that 
Sophiatown, Martindale, and Newclare were and always 
would be black. And by 1920 the industrial expansion of 
Johannesburg had also begun, and the Africans drawn into 
the city as its labour force needed homes. They found 
them, as they must, in Sophiatown and its neighbourhood. 
What was more important to many of them, they found an 
opportunity rare indeed in urban Africa for investment 
in real estate. Instead of living in a municipally owned 
location, they could live on their own plot in their own 
homes. And their children and their children's children 
could live there too. Freehold rights, even if amenities were 
lacking, were worth having. That was undoubtedly one of 
the great attractions of Sophiatown. The other was its near 
ness to the city. Instead of spending time and money on 



transport, as those who lived way out at Pimville Location 
had to do, they were within cycling distance of their work. 
Altogether it was a good place to be, combining the free 
dom of the country with the convenience of the town. And 
it was healthy, too, for it stood high on a ridge of rock and 
you could look away towards Pretoria over open, rolling 
country where fresh breezes blew. 

The only problem as the years passed was that of over 
crowding. Industry continued to respond, particularly 
when South Africa went off gold. Labour was needed for 
the factories and the business houses of the city in a big 
way. And it had to be black labour, for that alone was both 
cheap and plentiful. Unfortunately it did not occur to 
Johannesburg citizens that the labour force also had to live 
somewhere, had to have houses. One of the effects of the 
race situation in South Africa has always been that blind 
ness. Labour is labour; it is not human if it is black. It 
must be there, standing ready in your factory or your 
kitchen or your office, but it must make no demands for 
the necessities of life: a roof tree or an income large enough 
to support the home. It must have strong muscles for the 
job, but how they are to become strong is its own concern. 
It must have clean clothes and a tidy appearance in your 
home, but it doesn't matter where or how it is to get the 
water for washing or the space for drying. So Johannes 
burg built its factories, its flats, and its fun-fairs; it forgot 
to build houses for its African citizens. And Sophiatown, 
with its eighteen hundred "stands," began to crack at the 
seams with its growing population. There was some relief 
when another municipal location at Orlando was started. 
But that was needed far more rapidly than it was built. 
The density of population in Sophiatown continued to in 
crease every year, even though new families moved into 



Orlando as soon as the houses were finished; even though 
there was soon a waiting list of thousands registered with 
the civic authorities for vacant homes. 

The expansion of Johannesburg was not restricted to its 
non-European labour force. The white population, too, in 
creased, drawing men from the country by the same 
economic forces which have operated in every part of the 
world since the Industrial Revolution. And it chose to 
spread westward. New suburbs sprang up beyond Ferreir- 
astown. Brixton, Newlands, Westdene: an encirclement of 
the non-European area had begun. White artisans oc 
cupied these suburbs for the most part, and in Westdene 
they were predominantly Afrikaners. By a strange irony, 
the group most strongly anti- African (because it has most 
to fear from African competition) occupied houses only a 
few yards from the last street in Sophiatown and looked 
across a strip of grass at the homes which had been es 
tablished there. 

By 1937 the first sounds of battle were heard, and by 
1939 a city councillor whose constituency abutted on 
Sophiatown demanded the total removal of all non-Euro 
pean settlements in the Western Areas. But in view of the 
total failure of the City Council to build houses fast enough 
anywhere in Johannesburg to meet the needs of the African 
labour force, and also in view of the demands made on the 
country by the war, nothing was done. In 1944, a year after 
my arrival in Sophiatown, the Council approved in prin 
ciple the removal of all Africans and coloureds from the 
area. But no attempt was made in the following years to 
implement the scheme, and no attempt was made either 
to proceed with slum clearance or to build sufficient houses 
for those who desperately needed them. It was during the 
period 1944-49 that the shanty towns emerged, and it was 



during that period also that the number of African families 
without any proper home reached catastrophic propor 
tions. The idea of uprooting sixty thousand people who at 
least had a roof over their heads became ludicrous in view 
of the vast mass of the homeless who had to make do with 
shacks and shanties all round the western perimeter of the 

The "problem" of the Western Areas was added to all 
the other "problems" of South Africa. But basically the is 
sue was dead simple. It was just this: that white Johannes 
burg had encroached upon black Johannesburg, and so, 
naturally, black Johannesburg must move on. MUST MOVE 
ON. That is why the Western Areas Scheme is so terribly 
important to the Christian; or, rather, why it ought to be. 
An African freehold township, established for fifty years, 
can be uprooted and totally destroyed because it is con 
tiguous with a European suburb. The question of right or 
wrong does not have any relevance. The story of Naboth's 
vineyard rings no bell. Arguments soundly based on eco 
nomics or town planning or on history have no meaning 
whatsoever. If a black township stands where a white sub 
urb wants to stand, the township must go. We can think up 
a justification for it afterwards. 

When the Malan government was returned to power in 
1948 it wasted no time in elevating the Western Areas 
Scheme to the level of national importance. Minister 
Mentz, M.P., speaking in the House of Assembly, stated 
solemnly that "there is not a single strand of barbed wire 
between my constituency (Westdene) and Sophiatown." 
Obviously such an appalling danger to European security 
could not be allowed to continue any longer. The City 
Council was ordered to get a move on and to implement 
its recommendations of 1944. 



It should not be forgotten that, during the long years 
when the Removal Scheme was under discussion hy the 
authorities, it was never once discussed with the people 
who were going to be removed; with the ratepayers of 
Sophiatown who, though they paid their rates, had no 
other contact with the municipal authorities to whom they 
paid them than the privilege of paying. For nearly twenty 
years the threat had hung over the Western Areas. Those 
who had invested their savings in homes for themselves 
and their children might lose everything; those who 
wanted some security, some assurance of a future, dared 
not risk basing it on such shifting foundations. Always, in 
those years, we were living in a place which was besieged 
by the forces of fear and uncertainty. It was this, added 
to the overcrowding, which imposed slum conditions on an 
area which, in every possible respect, was most suited to 
be and to remain an African suburb. It is not much of an 
encouragement to improve your property if, any morning, 
you open your newspaper and see headlines, "Western 
Areas Plan Approved: Black Spots to be Removed." I am 
convinced from my experience in Sophiatown that a great 
deal of the crime and of the juvenile delinquency was di 
rectly due to this sense of insecurity. If you're going to lose 
what you've got anyhow, why worry too much about other 
people's rights and property? But that is another story. 

Our chief difficulty in fighting the Removal was two 
fold. In the first place, we had to demand and to go on 
demanding a genuine slum-clearance scheme. That is to 
say, the building of houses in a sufficient number at Or 
lando or elsewhere to make it possible for the sub-tenants 
of Sophiatown to move out and thus reduce the density 
of population to reasonable proportions. On the other 
hand, we had to keep the citizens of Johannesburg awake 



to the plain truth that the government's scheme was not 
slum clearance but robbery: robbery carried out in the 
interests of and under pressure from the neighbouring 
white suburbs: a political manoeuvre. The South African 
Institute of Race Relations called a conference in August 
1953, to which fifty-one organisations sent representatives. 
The government and the City Council were also invited to 
attend. Both refused. "Such a conference/* said the Secre 
tary of State for Native Affairs, "should not take place . . . 
it will not in my opinion serve any useful purpose." Ob 
viously, as in every other issue affecting the African people, 
the government had no intention of consultation and no 
desire to hear their point of view. THEY MUST MOVE. They 
are natives, so the government always knows what is best 
for them and does it. 

Soon after this, a group of us, including Helen Navid, 
formed the Western Areas Protest Committee, of which 
I was the chairman, and went into the fight for the con 
science of Johannesburg. It was our aim to work in the 
closest conjunction with the African National Congress 
and the Transvaal Indian Congress. They were to organise 
the people in the areas themselves; we were to reach the 
European suburbs and try to educate the white citizens 
on the true implications of the scheme. Our hope was that 
in this way we might at least succeed in forcing the City 
Council to refuse to co-operate with the government. In 
the meanwhile the Bishop of Johannesburg and the Citi- 
izens' Housing League were attacking the Council fiercely 
and persistently over its failure to build houses. It was not 
too difficult to point to the "shelters" at Orlando and to the 
Moroka Emergency Camp and to show that at least ninety 
thousand people were living under slum conditions quite 
obviously worse than anything in Sophiatown; and these 



slums were municipally owned. What was difficult was to 
make Johannesburg realise that there were moral issues 
involved; for 90 per cent of its people had never seen the 
places we were talking about and could not care less what 
happened to them. 

We campaigned in the suburbs with varying success. 
But at least we made some progress: we made the city 
aware of the possible dangers involved in a compulsory 
removal scheme. After a great deal of shilly-shally the 
Council announced that it would not co-operate with the 

Dr. Verwoerd reacted promptly and characteristically 
by creating a new local authority with plenary powers 
which would be directly responsible to him for carrying 
through his plans. The "black spot" of Sophiatown became 
for the Native Affairs Department its chief priority. Every 
possible use was made of propaganda to prove that those 
who opposed the Removal were in fact opposing slum 
clearance; and Meadowlands the area chosen for the new 
location became a symbol of all the paternal charity and 
foresight which Dr. Verwoerd so loves to proclaim as the 
fruit of an apartheid policy. This was exactly what the 
conscience of Johannesburg was waiting for: to be able to 
relax again in the comforting thought that, after all, 
Sophiatown was a filthy slum; Meadowlands would be a 
tidy and controlled location. The natives would be better 
off, even if they had lost freehold rights, even if they had 
to travel farther to their work, even if they were now in a 
place where government regulations and restrictions could 
be most vigorously imposed. It became increasingly diffi 
cult for us to get a favourable press. And naturally in con 
sequence it became difficult to maintain European opposi 
tion. In Sophiatown itself, Congress carried on a campaign 



of public meetings (always attended by the political 
branch of the C.I.D.) and of house-to-house visits. But 
they, too, were running into great practical difficulties. It 
was all very well to explain to people the meaning of the 
Removal and the loss of rights it must entail. It was more 
difficult to work out any constructive plan of opposition; 
for, if people resisted removal to Meadowlands, at least 
some alternative accommodation must be provided. And 
in the Western Areas there had been no accommodation 
for years. 

Such was the position when in February the government 
acted. It acted with great efficiency, with overwhelming 
force, and with a surprise move two days earlier than was 
expected. Perhaps we had done our job more effectively 
than we knew, for the press of the world was there on that 
February morning; and if South Africa and Johannesburg 
were largely unconcerned, Sophiatown became for a time 
world news. 

I think many people expected violent resistance to the 
Removal and were surprised when the lorries moved off 
to Meadowlands so safely and with such apparently happy 
travellers. I was attacked in the House of Assembly by both 
the Minister of Native Affairs and the Minister of Justice 
for having attempted to invite gangsterism and to en 
courage the use of armed force. Although I challenged the 
two ministers to repeat their statements outside the privi 
leged forum of Parliament, neither did so. Nor did any of 
my ecclesiastical superiors (the Bishop of Johannesburg 
was away in England at the time ) attempt to come to my 
defence. Indeed I cannot honestly say that, in the whole 
struggle for the upholding of principle and the resistance 
to oppression which the Removal meant to us, there was 
any very noticeably Christian opposition to the scheme. 



And as soon as the move to Meadowlands had begun, the 
press and the people of Johannesburg made every effort 
to justify what they had both previously condemned. The 
seduction of power had worked effectively once more. 

As I write these words, some thousands have left Sophia- 
town (the government claims ten thousand) and have 
settled in the new location. Many of the streets are becom 
ing heaps of rubble. The squalid shelters, the sordid rooms 
have been pulled down, and the places where they stood 
lie open to the sun and to the sky. Beside them also lie 
the remains of houses which I have also known, where 
families lived happily and in pride of ownership. The good 
and the bad are destroyed together; their occupants live 
in the neat monotony of Meadowlands. 

I do not weep for the destruction of the material which 
was Sophiatown. At least two thirds of it would have had 
to be destroyed in any scheme for the renewing of that 
area which we always dreamed might come to pass. I do 
not weep, either, simply because what I have known and 
greatly loved is no more. Living through two world wars 
at least teaches one a measure of detachment and is a re 
minder to all men that "here we have no abiding city/* 
Nor do I condemn Meadowlands as a place to live. It has 
a pretty name. It is a pleasant site. And if you are used to 
locations, I suppose it bears comparison with any other. 
At least it is just as dull. But I weep because the Western 
Areas Removal Scheme and the uprooting of sixty thou 
sand people are being carried out with the connivance of 
the Christian conscience of Johannesburg. I weep because 
in spite of all we have tried to do we have failed so utterly 
to uphold principle against prejudice, the rights of persons 
against the claims of power. 

"But after all, padre," said a B.B.C. correspondent sent 



to make a recording for his programme, "you must admit 
that Sophiatown was a slum. It was a jolly good thing it 
was cleared away. And I've seen Meadowlands: it's fine. 
They're quite happy. What are freehold rights anyway? 
Surely the principle isn't as important as all that? And 
most of the property in Sophiatown was mortgaged too. 
Don't you think all the fuss was a bit of a mistake? Was it 
fair? Is the government always wrong?" I should have liked 
to answer those questions over the air. But apparently that 
was not considered desirable. Now, when the Removal is 
to most people a thing of the past, it is a little late to make 
comments. Yet, late or not, I must try for the sake of the 
future and for the sake of truth itself. 

Sophiatown was a slum. Those of us who have lived 
there would never wish to deny that. We have seen with 
our own eyes the heroism of so many of our own Christian 
people in their battle to fight and to overcome their en 
vironment. It would be treason to them to deny that 
Sophiatown was a slum. But slum conditions can be re 
moved without the expropriation of a whole area. Indeed 
the greatest experts in town planning would agree that 
only in the last resort should you uproot people from the 
place they know as home; for in such uprooting you destroy 
not only the fabric of their houses, you destroy a living 
organism the community itself. Sophiatown, then, could 
have been replanned and rebuilt on the same site: a model 
African suburb. It could have been, but for the pressure 
of three things. First, the pressure of white opinion and the 
political force it represented; second, the existence of free 
hold tenure and the threat of permanence which it im 
plied; third, that which underlies every event of any racial 
significance in South Africa: the assumption that white 
"civilisation" is threatened by the very existence of an 


XI. Comfort, Use and 

Man seeketh in society comfort, use and protection. 


I HAVE tried in this book to confine myself to examples of 
the working out of a race-domination policy which I have 
actually seen or experienced. I have not drawn on press 
reports of incidents which might illustrate my theme per 
haps more clearly. But in this chapter I shall use one such 
illustration because it happens to be recent and exceed 
ingly apposite. 

Nothing, I think, is more psychologically revealing than 
the attempt made by the government of South Africa to 
explain to the rest of the world the justice, the right-mind 
edness, and the deep understanding which guide its racial 

"These men," said a very well-known television com 
mentator from America to me, "are always on the defen 
sive. We didn't come here to have a crack at Strijdom or 
Verwoerd; we came to take an objective picture. But all we 
get is the usual stuff about whites being swamped by 
blacks. ... If their policy's so good, let's hear about their 
policy: it ought to justify itself." 



What South Africans really resent in the comments of 
men like Canon Collins is the exposure of the truth; the 
denuding of their carefully clothed and vested export 
model of apartheid; the strip tease which does in fact lay 
bare a great deal of unattractive, not to say indecent, mo 
tivewhat they say they resent is the impertinence of a 
foreigner passing moral judgments in ignorance of the 
facts. (They cannot say that about me, for I happen to be a 
South African citizen; I happen also to have lived in an 
African urban area for years, an experience which no mem 
ber of the Cabinet could or would have enjoyed. ) As the 
volume of criticism from overseas has grown, so the In 
formation Office at South Africa House and its equivalents 
in other countries has sought to undermine the criticism 
in two ways. First it has tried to discredit the critics. They 
are all either sentimentalists or agitators : missionaries who 
live in a cloud-cuckoo-land or men disguised as mission 
aries (like Michael Scott) whose real aim is political. This 
line of defence (or is it attack?) might be all right if it 
were not for the South Africans, born and bred in the 
country, who say precisely the same uncomfortable things. 
It is one thing to shoot at Michael Scott or Canon Collins; 
it is another to shoot at Alan Paton or Patrick Duncan. 
Not that they don't try. But the world is not so impressed. 

So they fall back on the alternative method, which is to 
give the true interpretation and meaning of apartheid and 
white supremacy to a sceptical and, alas, far too liberal 
Western world. It is in an attitude of pained surprise that 
South Africa defends its policies. The opening gambit is 
invariably the same: "Our problems are unique. YouVe got 
to be a white South African to understand them," As this 
immediately eliminates all possibility of "just" criticism 
from the rest of the world, it is quite a useful start. The next 



stage is rather more subtle. "In spite of the uniqueness of 
our problems and the colossal burden they impose upon 
the white man, we are in fact facing the problems and 
carrying the burden more successfully than any other 
African country south of the Sahara." There then follows 
a neat statistical survey of health services, educational 
facilities, social amenities, and so forth, designed to prove 
this point and concluding with: "It will thus be evident 
that South Africa is the most progressive state on the sub 
continent in every field/* 

As a general rule the pamphlet, speech, or broadcast 
ends with an optimistic forecast based on the general con 
tentment of the Bantu people. Who, after all, are still only 
children and need a wise parental hand to guide them, a 
hand which is freely held out to them by a benign govern 
ment (it is Dr. Verwoerd's hand, of course) ; and the whole 
is rounded off with a heartfelt appeal to the democracies 
of Europe to realise how firmly grounded the Afrikaner 
people are in democratic principle; and with an emotional 
overtone which is meant to echo round the empires of the 
earth "We are the bastion of white civilisation in the 
Southern Hemisphere. We dare not fail." 

I feel it is interesting and important to test the validity 
of South Africa's arguments. To try at least to understand 
them by examining certain aspects of life which are com 
mon to all civilised peoples and to see what happens in the 
Union; what happens in the Union, rather than what the 
Union says for itself to the world outside. The aspects I 
would choose are those which most closely affect man's 
ordinary daily existence: the things taken for granted as 
normal and necessary to the continuance of society itself. 

And first of all, the rule of law. And here is my example. 
In September 1954 Johan Snyman of Harmonie Farm, 



Koster District, in the Transvaal, was brought before Mr. 
Justice Dowling on the Western Circuit. The charge was 
murder. The victim was an African convict-labourer, Elias 
Mpikwa. Farm prisons and farm labour are used a great 
deal in South Africa; they serve the purpose of combining 
justice with economy. And of course they please the farm 
ing community, which is a most important matter. 

This particular case was to have been heard in Pretoria, 
beyond the range of local feeling, but the counsel for the 
defence, Mr. Oswald Pirow, Q.C. (a former Cabinet min 
ister), prevailed upon the Minister of Justice, Mr. Swart, 
to put it back on circuit for trial by a jury of local white 
men. Before the trial began, three jurymen bearing English 
names were withdrawn from the jury. I will allow Mr. 
Johan Snyman to speak for himself. He said in evidence: 

"Mpikwa . . . stood there just like a tree stump. I gave 
him a couple of blows with the hose pipe and he walked in 
a slow, brutal (Afrikaans: brutaalslraost 'cheeky') way 
and stood again, refusing to work. I hit him again and 
again. It occurred to me that this Kaffir felt nothing with 
his sack on (convict labourers have their clothes taken 
away and are dressed in sacks to prevent escape). ... I 
told a native to remove it, so that I could hit him on the 
thighs and see if he could feel anything." 

Mpikwa died as a result of this thrashing. His offence? 
He might have been convicted to farm labour simply for 
being a vagrant, for being in a town seeking work, for 
having no pass. But he died, beaten to death by a hose pipe. 

The jury considered their verdict and found Snyman 
guilty of common assault, it is said by a majority of seven 
to two. The judge imposed the maximum sentence allowed 
for such a crime, a sentence of eighteen months' imprison 



"The jury," said Mr. Justice Dowling, "have found you 
guilty of common assault. . . . You are a very lucky man, 
If this is common assault it is the worst case I have come 
across. . . ." 

Johan collapsed when the verdict was announced, and 
it is said that he wept in his cell at the "injustice" of his 
conviction for any crime at all. 

Recently the Minister of Justice was able to assure the 
Nationalist Party Congress in Bloemfontein that "not a 
single native convicted of raping a European woman had 
escaped the death sentence." 

I suppose it would be true to say that in England one of 
the bulwarks of the legal system is trial by jury. In South 
Africa no African will elect to be tried by jury (he will 
choose the alternative of a judge and assessors), because 
the jury must be white. 

There can be no doubt that South African judges have 
maintained an exceedingly high standard of impartiality. 
I doubt if the same can be said of the magistrates. But the 
whole rule of law in the Union the type of sentence im 
posed, the evaluation of offences is undeniably affected 
by the racial situation and the racial policy of the country. 
Black and white are not equal before the law, however 
honest be the judge, because the law itself proclaims their 

Let us consider, then, that other field of human en 

The white South African is obsessed by sport to an ex 
tent, I believe, unequalled anywhere else in the world. I 
use the word "obsessed" deliberately, for I have the feel 
ing that Freud would have found this fact a most inter 
esting one. Are sportsmanship and fair play always the 
reflection of a sound and healthy character? Or can it be, 



perhaps, that sometimes "the flannelled fools at the wicket 
or the muddied oafs at the goals" are working off some 
complex which must otherwise find a more sinister satis 
faction and a more deadly violence? I would not know. 
It is just a suggestion. The fact remains that South Africa, 
for the size of its white population, is quite astonishingly 
adept at all games. It is in world class at Rugby football, 
cricket, and swimming, and has produced world-class per 
formers at golf, tennis, and boxing. For a population of 
two and a half million, that is very remarkable. No doubt 
the glorious climate has something to do with it. It is al 
most a physical impossibility to stay indoors at any time of 
the year, unless you have to. The South African Sunday is 
a constant battle between the Kerk and the bowling green 
or the tennis court. But in spite of this great passion for 
athletic achievement, white South Africa restricts its sport 
ing activities as severely as it restricts its social and polit 
ical activities to white South Africa. As a result, some very 
strange anomalies arise. For sport is such a universal thing 
such an essentially international activity and, by defini 
tion, such a competitive one that isolation is becoming 
harder and harder to maintain. Whilst in some games the 
African has not yet come to maturity because he has had 
such a late start, in boxing particularly he is producing 
champions: men in every way the equals and often the 
superiors of their white counterparts. Recently one of 
them, Jake Tuli (who began his career in our own school 
in Orlando), became an Empire champion. But he had to 
win his championship outside his own country. In the 
Transvaal, where he lived, there is a police regulation 
forbidding any European witnessing an African boxing 
match, let alone taking part in one. Recently, when Robert 
Cohen, the world bantamweight champion, was training 



in Johannesburg, he used African sparring partners (as 
many another boxer has done) : he was visited by the po 
lice and warned to desist. 

It is true that in most stadiums a section is reserved for 
non-European spectators. They are allowed to watch Eu 
ropean football, and they take advantage of this rare priv 
ilege. But they tend always to support a visiting team from 
overseas if any international game is played. This is a little 
embarrassing and not always easy to explain to the visitors. 
It is the logical and sad effect of the policy of white 
domination: even in sport, even in "playing the game," 
there can be no forgetting, no true recreation. But it may 
well be that South Africa will soon find herself isolated 
from the sporting world as completely as it is isolated in 
its political thinking from the world of both East and West. 
Already the World Association Football body is finding 
South Africa an embarrassment, for there are more Af 
ricans in the Union playing soccer than Europeans. Al 
ready there are questions concerning the Olympic Games. 
And it is not impossible that, in cricket, other countries 
besides the West Indies will find it hard to accept South 
African teams. Just because the Union is so good at sport, 
such isolation would shake its self-assurance very severely. 
Fantastic though it may sound, it might be an extraordi 
narily effective blow to the racialism which has brought 
it into being. It might even make the English-speaking 
South African awake to the fact that you can't play with 
a straight bat if you have no opponents. It is long past the 
time when the doors of international athletics should be 
opened to Africans from the Union. If a policy of boycott 
against white South Africa by the rest of the world will 
bring that day nearer, then I hope it will speedily happen. 

The spokesmen of the various Information Offices attach 



great importance to "Bantu culture/' They do not define 
it. Nor do they tell the world where or how this culture is 
disseminated: where it is appreciated and by whom. But 
of culture itself, in the widest sense of the word, they wisely 
say nothing at all. It would be rather hard to explain the 
enlightenment of a policy which on the one hand con 
stantly affirms itself based on "Western Christian civilisa 
tion" and on the other firmly bolts and bars the door to 
such culture for the African. Nothing, I think, is more evil 
or more far-reaching in its effects than this attempt to pre 
vent the African from entering the world of beauty in 
music, art, and drama. It is an affront to God Himself: a 
primal blasphemy. For it is to say: "These are the most 
precious gifts of civilisation: the garnered fruits of cen 
turies of creative art. Because they are so precious we will 
not share them with others. They must not be seen by one 
people of Your creating, for You have mistakenly created 
them black." 

No African in the Union can enter a European place of 
entertainment. Therefore, in effect, no African can hear 
the music of Beethoven or Bach played "live," nor can 
he see great actors in Shakespeare's drama, nor can he at 
tend lectures on any cultural topic, unless those lectures 
are given in his own limited university or school premises. 

I have tried in the past twelve years to do everything 
possible to break this culture bar: with only limited suc 
cess, but with some success for all that. One afternoon six 
years ago I drove to the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg to 
meet Yehudi Menuhin. As we were on our way to Sophia- 
town he said: "I was told that if I played ftiy violin to an 
African audience I would be breaking my contract. I 
pointed out that no Africans could hear me unless I went 
to them in their own townships: and that as I charged no 



fee it could hardly affect the European attendance at my 
concerts. I was then threatened by the company with an 
injunction in court if I carried out my intention. I said to 
Mr. A., 'Okay. Take out your injunction. I will see to it that 
no other artist visits South Africa/ " He added with a smile, 
"I've heard no more about the courts/' 

Our lovely church in Sophiatown was packed to the 
doors. Old and young had come together in their hundreds 
from this "black spot" to listen to one of the world's great 
est violinists. I am glad Yehudi played to us in the church. 
And I believe it must have brought joy to the Sacred 
Heart of Jesus. Certainly a door was opened on that dark 
and rain-swept afternoon: and every member of that quiet, 
tensely aware African audience marched through it into a 
new and entrancing world of sound. We formed a musical 
society in Sophiatown, and my friend, Joseph Trauneck, 
conductor of the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra, sup 
ported and encouraged us in every way. I remember the 
first concert with full orchestra ever heard in Sophiatown. 
It took place in the open air, on our school playground, 
and Michael Scott introduced the performers. I think it 
may have been the first time that the African national an 
them, "Nkosi Sikelela Afrika," had been sung to the ac 
companiment of a full orchestra. It was an event. 

Whenever any distinguished artist was playing in the 
city we made an attempt to persuade him to come and 
play in Sophiatown. Either in the church or in our tiny 
little club room we heard such star performers as Elsie 
Hall, Michal Hambourg, Thomas Matthews, and Julius 
Katchen. But I think, apart from the Menuhin recital, the 
evening that lives in my memory is one on which the 
Amsterdam String Quartet came to play. The hall was 
packed, and in the front row there were some of our guests 



from Ezenzeleni, the African Blind Institution which Ar 
thur Blaxall and his wife had founded. There was a great 
stillness whilst the music was in progress, a sigh of sheer 
joy and appreciation when each piece was over, and a great 
burst of applause. The quartet was obviously delighted 
with its audience, and the leader said to me when it was 
all over: "If we lived in Johannesburg we would come and 
play every week for your people. They really appreciate 
our music/' 

But my memory is of the crowd streaming out into the 
night, whilst six blind Africans went forward at the in 
vitation of the leader of the quartet to feel the shape of 
the instruments they could not see and which for the first 
time in their lives they had actually heard. No doubt Dr. 
Verwoerd would have disapproved strongly. The music 
of Brahms does not fall within the category of Bantu cul 
ture. It is too universal, too wide in its appeal. It may even 
make the African believe he has an immortal soul. 

Although the world is familiar with the fact that South 
Africa has a colour bar, it is always a great shock, I have 
noticed, to those intelligent and liberal visitors from Eu 
rope and the States to find how far it penetrates: how com 
plete and absolute it is. Plenty of books have been written 
about the effect of Western industrialised society on the 
primitive African: none, so far as I know, about the effect 
of Africa upon Western industrialised society. Perhaps I 
will write one, one day. But summarised in one word it is: 
"Siege." The white South African doesn't realise it that 
way, of course. He is dead sure that he is dominant and 
directing the trend of events. In fact, he is walled in, en 
closed, not only by his own pride of race but by this barrier 
of fear which grows higher every day. He lives behind this 
barrier as the European settlers in the White Highlands 



of Kenya live behind their barbed wire. And in the city of 
Johannesburg he is rapidly becoming claustrophobic. He 
doesn't know it. The barrier has immense strength: it seems 
impenetrable. Yet all the white man has to do is to walk 
through it it is paralysis as well as claustrophobia that he 
suffers from. HE DARE NOT MOVE. 

One day there was a meeting in the Cathedral Hall to 
discuss the Bantu Education Act. Africans were invited, 
and I took a few of the most senior boys in the school be 
cause I thought it would be good for them to hear a lib 
eral European speaker; to realise that there were still such 

When the meeting was over, Miss X. said, "Won't you 
come and have a cup of tea with me in my flat?" 

I had been in South Africa long enough to react im 
mediately with a negative. "I've got some boys with me 
from the school. . . . I'm afraid I must get back/' (The 
barrier. ) 

"Oh! That's all right, bring them along too." (The siege 
is lifted.) 

I wasn't surprised that Miss X. had invited the African 
boys to her flat, for I knew her and I knew her views on 
colour. But the boys themselves were astonished. The 
meeting meant nothing after that. To sit on the floor in a 
European flat with other Europeans and to drink Coca- 
Cola and talk quite normally that was the wonder of the 
evening. It was sufficiently wonderful to keep them talk 
ing about it for weeks afterwards. 

Not so long ago a high-ranking civil servant in the Gold 
Coast had to attend a conference somewhere in Africa. 
His plane for some reason or other was rerouted and 
landed in Johannesburg unexpectedly. He was told that 
he would have to spend the night in the city. He did not 



know that he could not get a taxi; he did not know that 
there was no hotel of any sort at which he could stay; he 
simply knew that he was at the airport, miles from the 
centre of the town, and that he could not stay there either. 
The authorities solved his problem by taking him to the 
Bantu Men's Social Centre and telling him to sleep on the 
floor. This was the first of several such incidents, and the 
airways were getting worried. In the end, two or three of 
the most famous international air lines made an arrange 
ment with our mission that whenever non-Europeans, Af 
rican or Asiatic, travelled through Johannesburg we should 
give them hospitality. 

From our point of view the plan has worked admirably. 
We have had in the course of a year visitors from almost 
every part of the sub-continent, the Gold Coast, Nigeria, 
Sierra Leone, Mauritius, the French Cameroons: every 
where. But it is a strange way for the government of South 
Africa to show neighbourliness. It is a strange way of im 
proving Commonwealth relations, and it is even a strange 
way of making propaganda about the justice and happi 
ness to be found through apartheid. I don't think it im 
presses the Gold Coast very much, for instance; and I 
doubt if it impresses Nigeria. It would not improve rela 
tions with other Asian countries, either, if Mr. Nehru or 
Mrs. Pandit were to make the mistake of setting foot on 
South African soil. For they could not even go to a milk 
bar to drink a cup of tea. It is not, of course, that the South 
African government dislikes African and Asian countries: 
it is simply that these other, "less happier lands'* are living 
in a dreamworld where it is thought that racialism is a 
bad thing. They will wake up one day and apologise to 
the white man for their mistake, But in the meanwhile they 
must not be allowed to forget that they are mistaken. 



Sleeping on a cement floor of a second-rate club in Johan 
nesburg is not too high a price to pay for such a lesson. 
Law, sport, social life the background to all civilised 
behaviour. Such is its form and shape in the Union of 
South Africa. But the State Information Office naturally 
does not feel bound to say too much about these things 
to the outside world. "No one can understand our prob 
lems except ourselves/' so it's a waste of time anyway. But 
there is one even more basic aspect of life which must be 
considered in this context also. It is religion. I have tried 
to show what I believe to be the deep theological issues 
underlying our situation. But theology is expressed in ac 
tion; in worship. It is woven into the whole fabric of a 
man's life. And in South Africa I think it would be fair to 
say that there is a greater and more general observance 
of religious duties by all sections of the people than in 
most modem countries. Church attendance is uniformly 
good. The Dutch Reformed Church throws the full weight 
of its immensely powerful influence into the scales and in 
favour of a strict observance of religious duties: particu 
larly of the sanctity of the Sabbath. Ascension Day is a 
public holiday in South Africa. But what is the view of 
white South Africa on black South Africa's religion? The 
Rev. C. B. Brink, a predikant of the Dutch Reformed 
Church, who is generally regarded as a liberal-minded, 
moderate person, said recently: "It is true that the unity 
of the congregation of Christ is clearly shown at the table 
of the Lord. At the moment, however, a common Holy 
Communion of all races on a large scale in South Africa 
would scarcely be edifying." I think that the great majority 
of white Christians in the Union would echo those senti 
ments, though many would feel that they did not go far 
enough, Many would feel that not only would such an ac- 



tion be unedifying, it would be gravely disturbing in its 
implications of equality. 

For not only are Christians in the "European" churches 
unwilling to worship in African churches. They do not be 
lieve that African Christianity can be quite the same thing 
as their own faith. "Look at the illegitimacy rate/' they 
say. "Look at the belief in witch doctors." "Look at the 
way my 'girl* steals from me as soon as my back is turned. 
. . ." Not "edifying." Not respectable. Not-in factthe 
same religion as ours; but quite useful, all the same, for 
keeping the native happy: only a bit of a nuisance, some 
times, when he's late with the morning tea or when the 
nursegirl insists on Thursday afternoon off to attend the 
Mothers 7 Union. 

And I sit in the confessional in the Church of Christ the 
King. There is a little queue of penitents, each person 
kneeling and awaiting her turn (the men will come later 
on in the day). It is old Martha who is kneeling beside 
me now: old Martha, who used to work in the kitchen in 
Rosebank but who had to give it up because her arthritis 
got so bad. She lives now in a single room in one of the 
less sanitary back yards of Sophiatown, and she has to look 
after her blind sister. Both of them are nearer seventy than 
sixty. Neither has more than a few shillings a week to live 
on. Her old black shawl has a greenish tinge where the 
sun catches it. I can just see her hands on the desk of the 
confessional, the fingers knotted and gnarled, clasping a 
battered prayer book. I curse myself because I've forgotten 
how hard it is for her to kneel. ... I ought to have pro 
vided a stool. So foolish of me, for she is a fortnightly 
penitent. . . . "I confess to God Almighty, to blessed Mary 
ever Virgin, to all the Saints and you my Father . . ." you, 



my Father ... "I get angry with, the children, very an 
gry, because they make noise at night. . . . My heart is 
sore because of this . . . because the children do not be 
have nice, . . . Father, my heart is sore and the dear Lord 
is so kind and good to me. ... He is so good to me al 
ways . . . and the Fathers and the Sisters, so good, so 
good. . . . And I am such a sinner. ... So please, Father, 
ask the Lord to forgive me. . . ." 

"SCARCELY EDIFYING." Well, perhaps our human stand 
ards differ. But whenever I hear old Martha's confession 
I am near to tears. I am not edified. I only want to kneel 
and wash those old and weary feet. 


XII. Joy and Woe 

Man was made for Joy and Woe 
And when this we rightly know 
Through the world we safely go. 


I REMEMBER when I was an undergraduate at Oxford lis 
tening to a lecture on Leonardo da Vinci by Sir Kenneth 
Clark. It was illustrated with slides. And I think I remem 
ber that when he was speaking of the "Virgin of the 
Rocks" he emphasised especially Leonardo's mastery of 
chiaroscuro. So much of that picture is dark. But the shad 
ows only serve to illumine the smile of Our Lady, only give 
a greater depth and meaning to the central figure. 

I am often (well, quite often) accused of being a pessi 
mist about South Africa: as though to be a Christian one 
had to see and express an optimism completely divorced 
from reality. But there is a whole world of difference be 
tween Christian hope and the facile, ephemeral happiness 
of those who dare not face the truth. Juliana of Nor 
wich's "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all man 
ner of thing shall be well," was based on a mystic's insight 
into the very nature and being of God. An insight which 
allowed her also to see the whole world as no larger than 
a hazelnut in the hollow of His hand. 

If, then, I have emphasised the darkness which I see in 



South Africa, the darkness which racialism always draws 
down upon mankind, I have done so deliberately. Not be 
cause I have no hope. But because my hope is based on 
an acceptance of the truth about man's inhumanity to man 
and about man's sinfulness and rebellion against God. 
South Africa has no monopoly of these things. But I am 
convinced that by espousing the policy of white supremacy 
South Africa has turned its back upon the light. It lies in 
shadow. I cannot help painting it that way. But no priest 
who is a priest can be gloomy about his job. And a gloomy 
priest working amongst Africans had best give up alto 
gether. If he is not encouraged by his flock, he will never 
be encouraged by anything. 

My recollection of Sophiatown will always be set in the 
context of the laughter of children: the swimming pool on 
a summer day, with a mass of glistening brown bodies and 
the noise of them splashing and the water like pea soup, 
so thick you cannot see the bottom. It was a good sight 
and a good sound to come back to when one had been 
walking the streets of the city or attending some dreary 
committee on church finance. 

But I count myself blest not only in the unending joy 
of African friendship but in the great variety of European 
friendship too. I cannot believe that any priest has ever 
been given such rich opportunities or a life so fructified 
and stimulated by contrast in human relationship. It is as 
though the words of Our Lord had been fulfilled quite 
literally, as though by taking the monastic vow of chastity 
and so "forsaking father and mother and children and 
lands" one had been given all back a hundredfold. And 
so I do believe. I can give no other explanation, anyway, 
than that one given in the Gospels. It certainly has noth 
ing to do with me. But, like the Virgin's smile in Leonardo's 



picture, it is more beautiful because of the darkness. In 
this land so torn with racial tensions and so pitifully di 
vided by fears and prejudices, it is all the more wonderful 
when there are kindness and generosity to savour. 

I would like to try to express something of the thrill that 
has often come my way in the unexpected act of sympathy 
or the sudden gesture of good will. And looking back over 
twelve years, I can see a great company of white South 
Africans who have supported our efforts one way and an 
other and who have continued to do so even after as 
sociation with me has become politically if not socially 
dangerous. For them I thank God. 

One Sunday morning ten years ago I was walking across 
to church. It must have been July or August, the middle of 
the South African winter, for I remember that dust was 
swirling round my head and gritty sand stinging my eyes. 
A young European woman whom I had not met had rung 
up to say that she was coming to Mass that morning, and 
I saw her holding on to her hat as she came across to greet 
me. There were, as always, ten or a dozen little African 
children clinging round my cassock and very soon stretch 
ing sticky paws up to grasp Miss K/s hand with an irresist 
ible smile and . . . "Morning, Seester." 

Miss K. didn't say much after the Mass except a few 
words about the poverty of the children. But she did say 
(if I remember rightly after all these years) what so many 
hundreds have said to me since: "But isn't there anything 
people like me can do to help? Surely there must be some 
way. I'm working, of course, but I could give up some of 
my spare time. . . ." 

A few days afterwards, in the Star, there appeared a let 
ter over her name, comparing the children she had seen in 
the Sophiatown streets with the "Belsen brats" (it was 



1945 ) whose pictures had horrified the civilised world. It 
was a good letter: a simple, unexaggerated appeal to the 
ordinary European Johannesburger. And it was winter. 
And the children roaming the bomb-scarred cities of Eu 
rope were a constant reminder of the fact that war brings 
hunger and homelessness. Somehow or other it rang a bell, 
and it rang it loud. The conscience of white Johannesburg 
was immediately and most alarmingly stirred. Alarmingly, 
for the next morning I was deluged with offers of food, 
clothes, and money for the African children of Sophia- 
town. I spent my day driving our old truck round the sub 
urbs collecting piles of groceries, stacks of old clothes and 
blankets, pounds of tinned food. We could not store it, for 
there was too much. The mail was stiff with cheques and 
with offers of help from all over the city. Further letters 
appeared in the Star urging a co-ordinated attack on child 
hunger. I called a public meeting and persuaded a well- 
known M.P. to take the chair. So the African Children's 
Feeding Scheme was born: it had been conceived in the 
mind of one young woman on that Sunday morning. She 
little knew what she was starting or how today, ten years 
later, the scheme is one of the best-known voluntary social 
services in, the Union and feeds five thousand children a 
day. It's a story worth telling, even though it can be paral 
leled and bettered many times over. For it happens in 
South Africa, and it is, in my view at least, a proof of what 
might be if interracial co-operation were more widespread 
and more sympathetically viewed by those in power. 

There is today a vast amount of child starvation in every 
location and township on the Reef. It is called malnutri 
tion. That sounds better and casts no slur on society: or 
less than the other. "Hidden hunger," kwashiorkor, or 
whatever you like to name it, is not the exception but the 



rule. You see it not so much in skeletonlike little bodies 
(more often than not the belly is distended and the child 
looks fat), but you see it in the dark, crisscross pattern 
upon the skin of legs and armslike the scorching of a hot 
fire; you see it where the hair meets the forehead and ap 
pears like a line of reddish fluff, instead of having the lively 
black crinkle and wave of African hair. You see it, too, in 
the children's wards of every hospital, in the exhausted, 
listless little figures which lie abed and in the too solemn, 
too aged eyes of a fourteen-year-old boy or girl. And if you 
are a priest you see it in the thousands of little graves at 
Croesus cemetery or the crowded burial ground at Nance- 
field. . . . 

When we launched the African Children's Feeding 
Scheme we had two main objectives. The first was to re 
lieve hunger. The second, to cash in on the newly awak 
ened conscience of Johannesburg and to compel the 
government to take action. At that time Smuts was Prime 
Minister and the great liberal, J. H. Hofmeyr, Minister of 
Finance and Education. At that time (and it remains true 
today) every European school child in the Transvaal was 
entitled to a free meal at school which cost the state six 
pence per head per day. African children were entitled to 
nothing, even if they had managed to get into school. Not 
through our pressure alone but perhaps with its help, 
Hofmeyr extended the feeding scheme to all African 
schools: at the rate of twopence per day per head. The 
strange anomaly of wealthy European children receiving 
a free meal at three times the value did not strike South 
Africa as so strange. And, anyhow, we had made a start 
and established a precedent. We did not intend to stop 
there. But we were also desperately concerned with the 



hundreds of thousands of children on the streets, unable 
to attend school, really hungry all day long. 

It took some time and some experimentation and plenty 
of discouraging mistakes to find a suitable pattern for our 
scheme. In the end we established centres in almost every 
Johannesburg location to which any child could come ev 
ery morning and for a halfpenny receive a meal worth four- 
pence or fivepence. Every centre was supervised and run 
by voluntary European workers who drove out each day 
to do the job, and by African assistants on the spot. Later 
we also adopted certain schools which had no government 
subsidy and could not qualify for any. So greatly did the 
scheme grow and so rapidly did it expand that we needed 
a full-time organising secretary. We had the immense good 
fortune to find Eleanor Ponsonby. Or, to be more truthful, 
I found her: she happened to be staying next door to my 
father's home in England when I was home on leave. I 
heard that she wanted a job which would involve service 
and initiative, so I went to see her. In an hour she had de 
cided to come to South Africa, and in two or three months 
she had arrived. Ballet dancing; lieder-singing; war serv 
ice on the Suez Canal and in Crete; the receiving end of 
the "Death Railway" in Malaya; finally with the homeless 
and often stateless children in Germany when the war was 
over; such was Eleanor Ponsonby's background (besides 
belonging to the famous family whose name was a house 
hold word in Victorian England). For over five years she 
has devoted herself and her talents, for no reward other 
than the supreme one of the work itself, to the hungry 
African children of our locations and to the study of hun 
ger itself. And supporting her has been all through the 
years that small body of women who keep the centres go 



Thank God the African Children's Feeding Scheme Las 
never become a highly centralised, heavily bureaucratised 
"charity." We are amateurs at social welfare, but we keep 
together; and, although five thousand children a day is 
only a fraction of those who need the food, it is at least a 
constant witness to the fact that there are those who care 
and that they are white. 

Twice in the last eight years a government commission 
has been appointed to investigate the question of school 
feeding. Twice reports have been tabled in the House, urg 
ing an expansion of the existing schemes and stressing the 
very great need of African children and the deadly conse 
quences of neglect. None of the recommendations of these 
commissions has been implemented. But almost the first 
act of the Nationalist government was the reduction of the 
twopence per head subsidy to one and one fifth pence in 
African schools and a regulation forbidding children over 
fourteen to participate in the scheme. "Native children 
need less food than white children," said a speaker in the 
House of Assembly on one occasion, "for they sleep more." 
I can only assume, therefore, that the children in white 
schools are being fed in order to save the European race 
from unconsciousness and torpor. It does not seem very 
successful so far. 

With the African Children's Feeding Scheme there be 
gan for me the fascinating yet exhausting game of begging. 
We had (and have still) to raise a thousand pounds a 
month to help keep things going. But once you start beg 
ging it gets a grip on you, like alcohol or heroin. You can't 
stop. And you begin to look for new fields to conquer. And 
other people begin to look to you to help them in the game. 
My mail grew more and more exciting, because I never 
knew who would be sending me money next, or for what 



purpose. And strangers would suddenly appear in the 
office, produce chequebooks, and leave very substantial 
sums of money with an apologetic smile. 

"Please don't thank me, Father. . . . Well, IVe had a 
good year at business. . . . You see, I've a rule: it must be 
a tenth of my income, a tithe, like the Bible says. . . ." 

One morning a wealthy man whose name I had heard 
but whom I'd never met came to the mission. As we sat 
and drank our tea he said: "Is there anything you specially 
need for your work, Father? Anything at this moment?" 

"Well," I said, "I really need another school in Orlando." 

He left me holding a cheque for fifteen hundred pounds, 
enough to build three classrooms, and a little later his 
brother added another thousand pounds. 

Or my phone would ring: "You don't know me, Father. 
. . . I'm a South African of the third generation, so I sup 
pose I've got all the usual prejudices . . . but . . . well, 
would you like a hundred pounds?" Or a group of Eu 
ropean women descend upon me with a scheme for mak 
ing blankets, selling them, giving me the proceeds to use 
as I think best. 

One afternoon I was attending a meeting of our Mis 
sion Committee. I was pleading with the rather cautious 
businessmen who served on it to let me have five hundred 
pounds to build two Lady chapels on to our churches in 
Orlando. They were not impressed with my arguments. I 
said, "I will guarantee that if you vote me this money it 
will come back. If you give something simply to God and 
for His glory, it always does." Still sceptical, they reluc 
tantly agreed. The following morning I had to go to the 
airport early to meet the Archbishop. I hadn't given a 
thought to the previous day's committee, and my mind was 
full of other things when I entered my office. On the desk 



was an old cardboard shoe box. "Secondhand clothing," 
was my immediate reaction. I cut the string. The box was 
stuffed full of bank notes, four hundred and fifty pounds 
altogether, and a letter to say that this was an anonymous 
gift. It had been left in the cathedral at the very time I 
was addressing my businessmen a few yards away. 

And then there are the old and the poor, who week by 
week set apart a few shillings and send them to me anon 
ymously: "Old Age Pensioner," written in a shaky hand 
on a grubby half sheet of paper, or just "Anonymous." I 
know mine is not a unique experience. But in South Africa 
today it is an exceedingly encouraging one. I suppose the 
cynic would say that it is an easy way of quieting an un 
easy conscience, a way of escape. It may be in some cases; 
I would not know. But I believe that there lies behind it 
a deeper meaning than that: the same meaning which 
drove Nicodemus out into the night to visit the Galilean 
Prophet. A heart, perceptive of its own profound unease 
and emptiness; a heart seeking warmth in the bleakness 
of its own void. I have yet to be proved wrong. 

Every morning in the Rand Daily Mail there is a column 
or two headed "Crime List." It reminds Johannesburg and 
the Reef that there are violence and terror in plenty in 
their streets. Unfortunately it also reminds the fearful and 
the prejudiced that a high percentage of such crime as it 
records is African. Few stop to ask themselves the reason. 
For in South Africa you soon get into the habit of thinking 
with your blood. 

Three or four years ago a great deal was being said and 
written about juvenile delinquency amongst the Africans, 
and it was pointed out that the Africans themselves were 
the chief sufferers. In the ill-lit locations and in the dark 
alleys and side streets of places such as Alexandra Town- 



ship there was plenty of opportunity for gangs or individ 
ual thugs to operate. This book has tried to indicate the 
more fundamental reasons for African crime. This sudden 
surge of indignation against the juvenile delinquent, how 
ever, seemed to me to have possibilities of exploitation in 
another direction. If people were so concerned about it, 
perhaps they might be prepared to take some positive ac 
tion of a preventative kind. It was worth trying. 

Our swimming bath at Sophiatown had proved itself 
over the years. All through the long South African summer 
it was packed with children from the dusty streets, free 
even of swim suits, abandoning themselves to the unutter 
able joy of cool if murky water and an hour on the sun 
baked concrete surrounding the pool. But it was the only 
public bath for Africans in Johannesburg which was ac 
cessible to the vast population in the west. And indeed the 
only other bath at all was sited in a municipal compound 
in the city itself. Christmas was hotter than usual in 1951. 
It was a good psychological moment. I wrote a letter to 
the Mail, linking delinquency with the lack of recreational 
facilities and appealing to the European public for a swim 
ming bath at Orlando. I have learnt from long experience 
that nothing is less predictable than the Johannesburg 
public conscience. The most needy project (such as the 
Newclare Squatters Relief Fund) may fail to stir it in the 
least. The most unlikely cause may rouse it to heights of 
generous response. And always there is the possibility of a 
loss of interest, of a new excitement to replace the old half 
way through. But from the start the swimming-bath appeal 
rang the right bell. Money poured in from all sides in the 
first two or three months. I was not too ambitious at first. 
I felt that anything, even a paddling pool, would be a start. 
And I have always believed very strongly in the plan of 



doing the job first and asking permission afterwards. I did 
not even consult the City Council before launching the 
appeal, for I could foresee that if I did so I should be 
caught in a mass of red tape and bogged down (to 
strengthen the metaphor) in a sea of committees. 

It took three years to raise the money. And I could never 
have done it without the help of three Johannesburg busi 
nessmen, one of them the director of a very large building 
firm in the city. They were enthusiastic. Nothing less than 
an Olympic Games-size bath would do I "Build first and 
worry afterwards" was their motto, and they did just that. 
We had only about half the cash we needed when the bull 
dozers went to work. And then, too, there were more tricky 
problems to overcome. 

One of them was the reaction of the African Advisory 
Board in Orlando. I knew that I must give them the fullest 
and most complete confidence in the project if it was to 
succeed. Too often the authorities had gone ahead with 
plans for the "improvement" of the location and its peo 
ple without consulting the Board: the representatives of 
the people themselves. Yet I dared not approach them until 
I knew that we were sure of completing the bath. So it was 
with some fearfulness that I attended a meeting, specially 
summoned, to see the plans and to hear the exposition of 
them. Mpanza was there. Mpanza, who had led the great 
squatter movement ten years before and whose Sofasonke 
Party had remained in control of the Advisory Board ever 
since. I did not know him except by repute. But I knew 
that what he said and the attitude he adopted would de 
cide the future of the swimming bath. It may seem strange 
to those who know nothing of urban Africa to be told that 
any place, any group of people would lightly refuse a 
present of such quality and purpose. But it is not surprising 



to those of us who know the humiliation of that paternal, 
official attitude which constantly assumes the African to 
be incapable of responsible action. Mpanza came in and 
the proceedings began. It was a hot afternoon and Mpanza 
himself was hot and perhaps unwilling to bestir himself. 
I unrolled the plans. 

"Here are the change-rooms: and here, you see, is a 
special shallow end for the little kids. . , . Yes, it's fifty 
metres long. . . . Olympic size . . . Filter plant . . ." 

Everyone except Mpanza seemed impressed. He sat 
back in his chair, silent and apparently unconcerned. 
When everyone else had given his opinion or asked a 
guarded question, the chairman turned to Mpanza: "And 
what do you think . . . ?" 

All attention, including my own, was focused upon that 
squat, silent figure. Slowly and with great deliberation he 
said, "Swimming baths? . . . Swimming baths? . . . We 
men do not need swimming baths/' 

I felt a wave of despair sweeping over me. How could 
I hope to persuade them, in face of that? 

But Mpanza had not finished. "The Father is throwing 
sweets to the children," he said. 

"Very expensive sweets," I said, hoping to relieve the 
tension in that stuffy room. "That bath is costing us about 
twenty-five thousand pounds." 

"Sweets to children," he repeated. "And IF ANYONE ELSE 
EXCEPT FATHER threw those sweets, I would say to the chil 
dren, 'Don't touch them. They're poisoned.' But if the Fa 
ther throws them why ! They're all right." 

It was perhaps the greatest compliment I have been paid 
by an African. It also meant that the bath was approved. 
I thanked God. 

The mayor of Johannesburg, a hundred Europeans, and 



two or three thousand Africans assembled on a March day 
for the opening ceremony. And when the speeches were 
all over there was a rush and a scramble. Five or six hun 
dred children, not waiting to strip, were in the water, 
splashing and shouting: enjoying for the first time in their 
lives one of the pleasures that white Johannesburg had 
always taken for granted. It was a good moment. 

Three days later the phone rang on my desk. "It's An 
drew, Father" (the superintendent of the bath). "There's 
been an accident here, Father. A boy. Please come." I knew 
in those few seconds what it meant: the thing I had 
dreaded above all else. And it had happened so terribly 
soon. When I got there his father had already arrived, 
a municipal policeman, standing quietly by the still, 
stretched figure in the shower room. John Matlanyane. 
Aged twelve. Drowned. I never saw his face, though I have 
imagined it countless times. He was their only son, but 
they did not blame me or reproach me once. And when 
I met my African Committee a few days later: "You mustn't 
worry, Father. You must understand. Our people don't 
know how to swim yet. They have to learn, and they have 
to make mistakes. Look how many children are drowned 
each year in the dams! Please don't be sad." 

Perhaps no, surelyJohn and I will one day meet again. 
And I believe that we shall know each other, for I pray 
for his soul every day of my life: that little African boy 
I have never seen, for whom the bath was to have been a 
place of joy and freedom, a window opened on to a wider 
and more exciting world than he knew. And perhaps, after 
all, it was. 

One afternoon at St. Peter's, school ended, the door of 
my office opened, and Hugh came in. That was not un- 



usual. I have always kept open house for the children, and 
they drift in and out, read the magazines on my table, or 
just hang around for a chat. To me, incidentally, that is the 
logical answer to apartheid just that. And when a boy or 
a girl feels sufficient confidence in me to use my office as 
their playroom, then I know that there is a relationship 
established which will make its mark upon their whole life. 
In the years that lie ahead there may be many opportunities 
for being completely at ease for an African boy, com 
pletely at ease, I mean, in a European house. But at least 
those who have been to St. Peter's will have known it, and 
maybe their children and their children's children will re 
member that even in 1955 love and friendship were pos 
sible between the two peoples: it was possible to meet and 
to talk on the level. 

So Hugh came in. He sat on the arm of my chair and 
began to crack his fingersa sure sign of some embarrass 
ing but important request. Hugh was fourteen then, more 
than usually attractive, with clear and unclouded eyes, the 
eyes of innocence and childhood which I love. I had al 
ways found him hard to resist, so I braced myself to meet 
what I guessed would be a request. He took hold of my 
hand and wrapped his fingers round mine. 

"Father . . ." he began. "Father I want tolearn the 
trumpet." He paused for my reaction. 

'"Well, that sounds all right, son, but trumpets are pretty 
expensive things. You'll have to wait a bit before you can 
get one, I expect." 

He ignored that statement entirely. "You see, I love 
music, all music. But my father won't believe in me. I want 
to prove I can do it/' 

"But why the trumpet? Why not the piano?" 

"Well, I listen to the trumpet: I hear Louis Armstrong 



he's a Negro, Father. . . . Anyway, I love it. Too much' 9 

I don't remember now how I brought the conversation 
to a close; probably with the half-honest assurance that I 
would "see what I could do." 

A few weeks later Hugh was ill in bed. Not very ill, 
really, but he lay there looking listless, and those great eyes 
of his had an added magic. I took my decision without tell 
ing him. On my way back from town that morning I 
stopped at a musical-instrument store, descended nerv 
ously to the basement, and said, "How much is a trumpet?" 
It seemed to surprise the salesman quite a bit. 

"Well, as a matter of fact, a young man has just brought 
back a new trumpet because his mother couldn't stand 
the racket. . . . You could have it for fifteen pounds. It's 
worth twenty-five." 

I took it. I sat on Hugh's bed and opened the case. But 
I watched his eyes. It was a sufficient reward. 

If I had to choose a motto expressing just one truth that 
has served me well in South Africa I would say, "Always act 
on impulse." And after twelve years' experience I would 
still say the same. You will make mistakes, of course. But 
as Chesterton said somewhere, "the man that never made 
a mistake never made anything." Anyhow, Hugh got his 
trumpet because I acted on impulse. But it wasn't a mis 
take: not at all. It was the best thing of its kind I ever did. 
It is true that for the first three months I wondered. Noth 
ing is more agonising to listen to than a boy learning a 
trumpet. I wondered, too, whether Hugh would persevere. 
He did. Then his friends came and asked if they could 
learn. I managed to get an African brass-band trumpeter 
to come and help. Lessons were held on a Saturday morn 
ing in the carpentry shop, and I feared complaints from 
the neighbours* One trumpet wasn't much use now, and I 



realised I had started something I could not stop. I had 
started, in fact, the "Huddleston Jazz Band/' now worth 
about five hundred pounds, and including every instru 
ment that any really good jazz band can want. 

It took me two years to beg or cajole those instruments, 
and I have never enjoyed anything so much. It became 
almost an obsession with me, when I went into the city, 
to see what instrument I could bring back: a selfish obses 
sion it wasjust to have the joy of their delight, to hear 
the chatter and the exclamations as they handled a new 
and gleaming saxophone or plucked the strings of the bass. 
And I remembered what Yehudi Menuhin said to me that 
day we drove to Sophiatown: "Don't forget, Father, it was 
the Negro jazz bands that first breached the colour bar in 
the States." 

The day came when the band was complete except for 
one instrument, and that the most expensive a tenor 
saxophone. Again I acted on impulse. Mr. Spyros P. 
Skouras, chief of Twentieth Century-Fox, was in Johannes 
burg negotiating a big deal. I happened to have met him 
three or four years previously at a meeting of social workers 
in the city. I rang him up. It was always a secretary who 
answered the phone and always a polite excuse. This went 
on for three or four days, but at last I managed to reach 
Mr. Skouras himself. 

'What do you want, Father?" 

"I want a saxophone!" 

"A what?" 

"A tenor saxophone for my African jazz band." 

"How much does it cost?" 

I took the plunge. "Eighty pounds, at least." 

He paused. "Well! You're a gold digger, but you can 



have it!" Within an hour that saxophone was an object of 
worship to twelve African boys, 

I have always felt sorry when I have come to read again 
that passage in the Old Testament about Absalom "Now 
Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for him 
self a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, 1 have 
no son to keep my name in remembrance': and he called 
the pillar after his own name: as it is called unto this day, 
Absalom's place." I have felt sorry, for, after all, a pillar 
is not much use to anyone. I think I am more fortunate 
than Absalom, for I have a swimming bath and a jazz band. 
That is better than a tombstone. 

Always, all through the twelve years I have spent in 
Africa, there has been something constructive to do with 
and for the people I have loved. The African Children's 
Feeding Scheme; the Orlando Swimming Bath; the New- 
clare Squatters; the Huddleston Jazz Band . . . Absorbing 
and fascinating and exciting, all of them. But I do not think 
they would have been enough to lift the weight of sorrow 
from my heart had it not been for the daily and hourly 
knowledge of African friendship and affection. Often 
enough, I confess it with deep shame, I have been im 
patient, angry even, at the incessant interruptions and 
claims upon "my" time. But God knows I would not have 
been without a moment of it. I have never understood or 
been able to understand how white South Africa can so 
lightly forfeit such a richness of life; can, on the contrary, 
build around itself such mighty and impenetrable barriers 
of pride and prejudice and fear. And yet I do understand. 

There were hands stretched out to heal and to comfort 
men. Hands stretched out to clasp other hands in friend- 



ship. Hands stretched out in blessing and in prayer. But 
it did not stop men nailing those Hands to the wood of 
the Cross. 

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 


XIII. And Have Not Charity 

And though I give my body to be burned, and 
have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 


THE DIRECTOR of the South African Church Institute, the 
Rev. C. T. Wood, in a sermon preached at Chester Cathe 
dral in February 1955, said: "I hold that by far the most 
important factor in our approach to the vital problems that 
are confronting South Africa today is the theological one. 
That what really matters, that what really influences the 
Afrikaner, is what he thinks about God and God's purpose 
for him and his race. We make the greatest possible mis 
take in trying to fight his convictions with political weap 
ons. Broad cries about democracy are not the answer to 
the theocracy which he has built up and which he jealously 
guards we must fight him and convict him on his own 
grounds and not on arbitrary grounds of our own choos 
ing. . . ." 

I have quoted this passage from an Anglican sermon, 
preached by one who knows South Africa, because it seems 
to me to express a point of view and an attitude widely 
representative of intelligent "ecclesiastical" opinion both 
in the Union and outside it. It also seems to me to state a 
truth the primacy of theologyand to draw totally wrong 
conclusions from that truth. And it assumes what I am not 



prepared to assume that the tragedy of the present situa 
tion in South Africa can be blamed upon one section of the 
white population, the Afrikaner, and upon his religion. The 
whole purpose of this book has been an attempt to demon 
strate, out of my personal, day-to-day experience, the effect 
of a policy upon a people: of a policy which I believe to 
be basically sub-Christian and imposed by a government 
whose motives are clearly and unmistakably racial. But this 
policy could not be imposed, neither could the government 
which imposes it remain in power, if the majority of white 
South African Christians did not approve of it. The doc 
trine of "white supremacy" is common to both Afrikaner 
and "English*' sections of the population. If it derives from 
the theological presuppositions of the Afrikaner and from 
the Calvinism which is their source, it derives equally 
from the failure of Anglicans, of Roman Catholics, and of 
Methodists to live by the faith which they profess. To deny 
this is both dishonest and absurd. 

Father Wood says that we make the greatest possible 
mistake in trying "to fight his convictions with political 
weapons." This is a most interesting and significant state 
ment, for it is almost exactly what the Archbishop of 
Canterbury said to me when we met for a brief few hours 
in Southern Rhodesia not many months ago. I was visiting 
our mission of St. Augustine's, Penhalonga, and the Arch 
bishop was on his way to inaugurate the new Province of 
Central Africa. He arrived in the late evening, and we 
were to entertain him that night. As we stood in our small 
Community parlour after supper, waiting for our African 
guests to arrive for the reception, the Archbishop turned to 
me and said: "You are entirely wrong in the methods you 
are using to fight this situation. . . . The Christian must 
never use force . . . must never use the same weapons as 



his opponent," We had a fierce but wholly friendly argu 
ment, which lasted until the reception began and which 
continued in correspondence afterwards. I was not con 
vinced by the Archbishop, and I am not convinced by 
Father Wood. For what does this statement really mean? 

Afrikaner theology and English apathy have together 
created a situation in which men, made in the image and 
likeness of God, are treated as inferior because they are of 
a different race and colour from their rulers. The weapons 
used to impose a racial-discrimination policy upon the 
African people are, of course, political. Prejudice and fear 
are doubtless the motive forces behind the policy, but it 
is such measures as the Native Urban Areas Act, the Native 
Resettlement Act, the Group Areas Act, and the Bantu 
Education Act which translate that prejudice and that fear 
into hard reality. It is the propaganda put forth by the 
State Information Office; it is the speeches made, and re 
ported at length, by Cabinet ministers (and often enough 
by opposition leaders too); it is the notices, Slegs vir 
Blankes, "Europeans only," displayed on public buildings; 
it is the daily police raids for passes, or for determining 
the racial group to which you belong, or for just reminding 
you that you are a kaffir. . . . It is these things which are 
the weapons of the white race, weapons as prominent as 
the revolver which hangs on every policeman's belt. They 
are not just "the convictions" of the Afrikaner. They are the 
expression of baasskap: of white domination. And, cer 
tainly, they are "political weapons." 

I am not trying to fight the religious convictions of the 
Calvinist Afrikaner by any other means than the proclama 
tion of the Catholic faith. But I do not, for that reason, 
believe it to be wrong or foolish or un-Christian to try to 
strike from the hand of white South Africa the weapons 


which not only hurt and wound the African every day but 
must also ultimately destroy civilisation on this sub-con 
tinent. I would, in fact, deny absolutely that "political 
weapons" are not to be used by Christians, for I believe 
that the Christian is bound to act politically, wherever he 
may be; that if the Church refuses to accept responsibility 
in the political sphere as well as in the strictly theological 
sphere, then she is guilty of betraying the very foundation 
of her faith: the Incarnation. It is when the Church has so 
abdicated her position of political trust that the state, freed 
from any absolute higher than itself, has assumed a totali 
tarian shape and a dictatorial attitude. That is a matter of 
history, not of opinion. 

Racialism in South Africa is the same as racialism every 
where else and at every moment in the story of mankind. 
The ways in which it finds expression in the Johannesburg 
I happen to know are not far different from the ways de 
scribed by Arthur Koestler and a thousand others as find 
ing expression in Germany under Hitler, in France under 
Vichy, and in the occupied countries of Europe. "Broad 
cries about democracy" may not be a very effective 
weapon with which to fight this horror, I agree. But to al 
low democracy to lose all Christian content or to refuse to 
fight for democratic rights in the interests of theology 
and of converting one's opponents to a more Christian 
theological outlook that is to court disaster. So at least it 
seems to rne. I believe, with Father Wood, that Calvinistic 
theology is largely to blame for the present tragedy in 
South Africa: I would wish with all my heart that a "con 
version" might be achieved. But I am certainly not pre 
pared to wait for that conversion whilst, at every level, 
political weapons are being used to create a condition of 
permanent servitude for the African in his own country. 



I am reminded of the kind of opposition from "good" 
men (including bishops of the Established Church) which 
William Wilberforce had to fight continuously. I am re 
minded, too, of the kind of arguments used by Petain to 
justify, on a religious and theological basis, his collabora 
tion with the Nazis. Slavery would have endured a great 
deal longer if Wilberforce had used no political weapons; 
thousands of refugees from nazism, including some of the 
most honourable men in Europe, might be alive today if 
Petain had refused to sign Article Nineteen in the Armi 
stice Treaty which Hitler presented to him. And in South 
Africa, if we wait to impress Afrikaners with the truth of 
Catholic theology, and English-speaking South Africans 
with the need for religion, we might as well give up the 
struggle for human rights altogether. They will have van 
ished into the night. In any case, what are these "political 
weapons" which Christians should not use? In my conver 
sation with the Archbishop of Canterbury I tried to dis 
cover. I hope I am not misrepresenting him if I say that he 
seemed to object to my use of "force," as being contrary 
to the teaching of Christ; that I had erred in appealing to 
the Christian conscience of people in England and Amer 
ica through articles in the press which urged "a spiritual 
boycott" of South Africa; that in using these tactics I was 
simply emulating those whose policies I most strongly de 
cried. Certainly in this the Archbishop would find much 
support from Christians leaders in the Union. The cry has 
been that it is useless, if not wrong, to urge Christian ac 
tion from outside, and that the only right weapon to use 
is that of arousing Christian opinion and the Christian con 
science inside the country. But if, for twenty years and 
more, the Church has tried this latter policy without suc 
cess, is it really so wrong to suggest a different and more 


powerful method of attack? That is all that I have tried to 
do. And the weapons I have used have been the only ones 
that lie at my disposal: my mind, my tongue, and my pen. 

When I suggested to the Archbishop that there was one 
occasion at least in the Gospel when Christ Himself used 
force to drive the money-changers out of the temple he 
replied that this was "symbolic." Apart from the fact that 
there is nothing in the story to suggest symbolism and a 
great deal (the violent reaction of the authorities and the 
consequent arrest of Jesus) to suggest the opposite, the 
plain interpretation of that scene is that Our Lord was not 
averse to using a weapon in order to bring home the truth. 
It is at least a permitted opinion in the Catholic Church, 
and one supported, I believe, by the teaching of St. Thomas 
Aquinas himself, that when government degenerates into 
tyranny the subject has a right to resist. The only point in 
dispute is whether the government in South Africa has de 
generated that far. In my opinion, with regard to the Afri 
can people, it certainly has. It is for the reader of this book 
to decide whether I am right or wrong. 

But there is a more fundamental issue, I suggest, to be 
decided first. That is, in brief, what is the function of the 
Christian Church in society? And, consequently, what is 
its function when confronted with a society rotten, cor 
rupt, and blind with racial division and prejudice? More 
fundamentally yet, what would Christ Himself say and 
do, faced with such a society? How would He confront it? 

An acquaintance of mine, whose judgment I greatly re 
spect and who was High Commissioner for Canada in the 
Union, was with me one day on a trip through some of the 
slums and shanty towns of Johannesburg. I was feeling, as 
always, a desperate sense of frustration, and I suppose I 



said some pretty fierce things about the government as we 
drove back in his comfortable car. 

He turned and said to me: "You ought to try to be more 
Christian about these chaps. . . . Have you forgotten the 
commandment? Why don't you try a bit more love towards 
them, a bit more patience and understanding?" 

My answer was something like this:/"I don't think I 
should find it too hard to forgive a person, or even to love 
him, if his actions were directed against me. But what right 
have I to be patient and forgiving when all his viciousness 
is directed against others? I'm not suffering unjustly; they 
are. I'm not segregated as if I were leprous; they are. I don't 
have to live in shanty town because nobody cares a damn 
where I live; they do. It seems to me too easy to be patient 
and charitable 90 per cent of white South Africa can be 
just that at the expense of injustice and cruelty to some 
one else/' 

I want to suggest that there is amongst Christians an 
entirely defective understanding of the meaning of love, of 
caritas the virtue upon which to a great extent all Chris 
tian behaviour rests. "Now abideth faith, hope, charity, 
and the greatest of these is charity," writes St. Paul. "Love 
your enemies, do good to them that hate you," says Our 
Lord Himself. And in a country in which racialism has 
created an atmosphere of hatred it is more than ever neces 
sary that Christians, the Church itself, should show the 
meaning of such love. But does that mean that, in its deal 
ings with the government, the Church must adopt always 
a peaceful and conciliatory attitude? Does it mean that I, 
a priest of the Church, must refrain from saying or doing 
anything that might wound the susceptibilities of Mr. 
Strijdom or Dr. Verwoerd because that would be a breach 
of charity? Does it mean that bishops must (as they are 


only too ready to do ) bend over backwards in an attempt 
to prove that their opposition to the Bantu Education Act 
must not be taken to imply a criticism of anybody responsi 
ble for it? Does it mean that any attempt to arouse the 
conscience of Christians in other countries is proof that 
one has no love, no "charity" towards one's own? 

Fortunately, in the Gospels there is a background situa 
tion which provides an immediate parallel with that of 
South Africa. There was a fierce and deep-rooted "racial" 
struggle there in Israel when Christ walked through the 
cities and villages preaching. "The Jews have no dealings 
with the Samaritans. . . ." An historical and a theological 
situation had combined to produce such a bitterness be 
tween the two sections of society that there was a real 
apartheid; an absolute division. Christ's answer to this 
situation was the parable of the good Samaritan. 

"And who is my neighbour?" had asked the young law 
yer, tempting Him. And he was forced to answer his own 
question. "I suppose that he who showed mercy . . ." 

"Go, and do thou likewise." 

There is nothing in the parable which is even a hint 
that the racial arrogance of the Jew is to be excused or 
palliated because of his background or his history. There 
is nothing in it either to indicate that Christ accepted the 
"official" excuse of the hierarchy for its attitude towards 
that intolerable division. The priest and the Levite in the 
parable who "passed by on the other side" are the repre 
sentatives, for all time, of those for whom fear is a more 
powerful motive than love. They are respectable citizens 
who like to observe the conventions: but they are more 
for they are the leaders of religion whose very office re 
doubles their responsibility and who fail in their task. The 
whole point and purpose of the parable is to show that 


charity, if it is real, must be prepared to break through 
convention, to shatter preconceptions, to take by force the 
citadels of prejudice: and that if in doing so it hints peo 
ple's feelings and outrages their sense of what is decent, 
what matter? Nothing could be further from the sentimen 
tal sob stuff that we so often call 'love" than the exposition 
of that virtue in the parable of the good Samaritan. I can 
find no hint in it of the "don't let's be beastly" attitude 
which my Canadian friend was so anxious that I should 
adopt in my dealings with the authorities. 

It is, of course, dangerous to generalise from one incident 
in the Gospel or from one parable; though in the case of 
the parable I have used it is surely justifiable to do so, for 
the whole purpose of it is to answer the question which 
this book is trying to face. But there is a wider and deeper 
reason why, in my opinion, Christians are so ready to 
excuse themselves for conniving at injustice and oppres 
sion in the name of charity. To so many, the figure of 
Christ is the figure of the "pale Galilean" whose meekness 
and gentleness are utterly incompatible with any concep 
tion of anger against social evil or individual pride. To 
them, all that is needed is "the art of being kind," and 
they think to see in Christ the fullest and clearest expres 
sion of that art. Thus, any statement which seems to show 
signs of any intolerance of such evils or any passage in 
the Gospels which has about it a denunciatory and threat 
ening tone is hastily forgotten. But in fact there are many 
such passages, and to ignore them is to mutilate the 
Gospel itself. 

Christ was not afraid to tell his disciples that in certain 
circumstances they should turn their backs upon a village 
which would not receive His teaching and shake the dust 
from their feet as a sign that He had rejected that village 



utterly. In His condemnation of the Pharisees for their dis 
tortion of the meaning of God's law and for their mislead 
ing emphasis upon legalism at the expense of love, there 
is no single note of gentleness: only a fierce anger. In His 
teaching about the final judgment, Christ does not seek to 
soften in any way the punishments of those who have failed 
in their use of this life: indeed He reserves for them the 
most terrible words in the whole Gospel: "Depart from 
me ye cursed into everlasting fire/' And it is worth remem 
bering that this condemnation is a judgment upon all who 
do not care for or concern themselves with the suffering of 
their fellow men, or rather of Christ in the persons of their 
fellow men. "Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the 
least of these, ye did it not unto Me." Christ wept over 
Jerusalem because it was "the city of peace" which did not 
know or attempt to understand its own destiny. But He 
did not excuse it. He prophesied its total destruction. 

The point I am trying to make is that Christian love is 
so searching, so demanding, and so revolutionary in its 
force that it has no kind of relationship to the thing which 
is so often called by its name. No more than Christ of the 
Gospels is like that shadowy, sentimental figure so often 
invoked by Christians who want to live comfortably with 
injustice and intolerance. 

Prophecy is still a function of the Church: prophecy in 
its true sense, that is. It always amuses me to hear discus 
sions on the hoary old problem of religion and politics and 
to think what such discussions would have meant to men 
like Jeremiah and Amos and Isaiah and Ezekiel. For in 
fact half their time was spent in trying to bring home to the 
men of their day the fact that God was directly concerned 
in the way society was organised; in the way wealth was 
distributed; in the way men behaved to one another. In 



short in politics. It is only in our post-Reformation day 
when religion has become individualistic that we have 
created this dichotomy. And thank God the tide has al 
ready turned and is running fast in the opposite direction: 
except in South Africa. 

Prophecy is a function of the Church and must be so 
till the end of time, for it will always be the duty of the 
Church to proclaim that this world is God's world and 
that infringements of His law will bring their own terrible 
penalties. Sin is not and never can be a purely personal 
matter. The problem of evil affects the whole human race. 
The sin of racial pride, the evil of the doctrine of apartheid, 
these are things which must be condemned by the 
Church and their consequences clearly and unmistakably 
proclaimed. That is prophecy. It is also politics. And those 
of us who in South Africa try to keep true to the prophetic 
as well as the pastoral function in our ministry must accept, 
and indeed expect, the misunderstanding of our friends 
and the obloquy of our foes. 

The Church in South Africa seems to me to stand at the 
parting of the ways. It will not be the first time in her 
history that she is confronted with a choice: indeed it is 
a choice which from the beginning has been present, 
fronting both the individual and the Divine Society of 
which he is a member. "He that saveth his life will lose it, 
and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it," said 
Our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, the Christian cannot 
have it both ways. That massive paradox of death and life; 
of life through death; of the Empty Tomb and Calvary is 
valid not only for the individual but for the whole Church 
of God. To try to save some outward form of Christianity 
by compromising on its inward reality is to die. To accept 
racial discrimination within the Body of Christ, within the 



Unity of the Church, is not only a contradiction of the 
nature of the Church but a blasphemy against the Holy 
Spirit of God Himself. 

Yet we Christians are tempted in South Africa to do just 
that. In order that we may live unmolested; in order that 
we may be free to minister to our people; in order that 
somehow we may retain control of our schools, our insti 
tutions, and our buildings, we are tempted to say yes to 
the state and to find good reasons for doing so. That is 
our peril today, for life and freedom and the right to 
possess what we have built at such great cost is too high 
a price to pay for the loss of our soul. I pray God that we 
may yet choose deaththe destruction, if need be, of all 
our external works; the loss, if it is a loss, of all those Chris 
tians who cannot accept the oneness of all men in Christ; 
the ostracism, poverty, and loneliness which could be our 
lot as the result of such a choice. "Marvel not if the world 
hate you, it hated Me before it hated you": but we marvel 
instead at the slightest criticism and run to justify our 
selves and to make excuses. 

Young Africa stands waiting, and his eyes are vigilant 
eyes. We have baptised him into the fellowship of Christ's 
Church. We have told him that he is the child of God and 
an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven. We have taught 
him to say "Our Father" with us. We have placed upon his 
lips the Body of Christ and told him that it is a pledge 
and a proof of our communion with one another. In every 
possible way we have driven home to him that truth which 
we recite every time we say the Creed, that we believe in 
the Catholic Church the Universal Church, the Church in 
which all barriers of language and culture and custom are 
broken down. 

But what do those vigilant brown eyes see as they look 



at the present? What do they see as they glance wonder- 
ingly at their fellow Christians in the streets of the great 
city, in the streets which pass the very doors of the Church 
itself? Do they see any reflection of that fellowship? Any 
recognition of the fact that those who worship in the "Eu 
ropean 7 * Church desire to be considered brethren in the 
family of God? Any outward difference between those who 
regularly receive the Sacrament of Unity and those who 
have no belief at all? 

And as they look to the future, do they see any sign that 
the Church is really awakening, "terrible as an army with 
banners/' to challenge the evils of racial discrimination in 
South Africa with weapons more effective than words? I 
wonder. I wonder. I wonder. 

During the past two or three years South Africa has been 
a centre of interest to the world for obvious reasons. As a 
result, many of the great newspapers of Europe and Amer 
ica have sent some of their ablest and most intelligent cor 
respondents to report on the situation. Many other writers 
of international reputation have visited the sub-continent 
to form their own opinions and to give expression to them. 
There has been, in fact, a spate of literature about South 
Africa from its own and from foreign sources. Men like 
Charles Morgan, John Gunther, Robert St. John, and Regi 
nald Reynolds have produced books; Rene MacColl, Ward 
Price, Cassandra, Colin Legum, and a host of others have 
written articles for their papers. It has been a fascinating 
experience to meet such people, all of whom are trained 
observers, and to find oneself in touch with the main stream 
of Western liberal culture by such contacts: a fascinating 
experience and also an encouraging one in times of lone 
liness and weariness. But all of them at some stage in the 
conversation have asked me the same question: "And how 


do you see the future of this country, Father? And what 
is your solution?" I have waited a hundred times for that 
question to be asked: I have never waited in vain. Now I 
must try, honestly and without prevarication, to answer 
it. And yet, in the answering, I am entangled in the situa 
tion itself; I write inside South Africa, after twelve years; 
and the span that I can look back upon is a short one, and 
the future is long. It is not easy, indeed it is not possible, 
to give a detached and objective answer. And some may 
say that the answer I offer is no answer at all. But here it 
is, for what it is worth. 

In the first place, a basic difference exists between the 
Christian view of history and that of the secularist. But 
between the Christian view and that of the totalitarian 
racialistnationalist, there is an unbridgeable gulf. The 
government of South Africa believes that it can so plan 
society in the Union that white supremacy will be main 
tained within its borders for all time. This at least is what 
again and again its leaders have told the world is their 
conviction and their aim. Every aspect of policy is, there 
fore, directed to this end. What happens between this mo 
ment and the moment of achievement ( 1978 is for some 
reason Dr. Verwoerd's date for victory) is of secondary im 
portance. If it involves the uprooting of thousands of 
families; if it means the separation of members of the same 
family; if it means the creation of inferior educational 
amenities; if it means a rigid and almost absolute curtail 
ment of freedom to move or to speak publicly or to gather 
socially these are incidental sufferings. For, in the kind 
of planned future which the doctrine of white supremacy 
means, the person, as a person, cannot count for much. 
He is subordinate always to the plan. He will be happy if 
he accepts it; he will suffer if he does not. His suffering 



is his own fault for refusing to understand the wisdom of 
the master race. 

Now we are in the rush of this transition. Apartheid 
the forcing of division and separation upon our mixed so 
cietyis the reality of our day. BUT IT is A REALITY LIMITED 


UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA. It is a reality limited to a people, 
the European South Africans, who in population equal 
about a quarter of the population of London. These men, 
whose boast it is that they uphold the standard of Western 
culture and civilisation on the dark continent and whose 
desire it is to lead, by their example, the peoples lying to 
the north of them in the same direction, are actually walk 
ing out of step with the whole world which lies around 
them. That they know this, no one can doubt. But in spite 
of their knowledge of it they are determined to go forward 
to their destiny. 

What I am trying to say, in answering the question so 
often put to me, is just this. That, as a Christian, I cannot 
believe either in the right or in the possibility of a govern 
ment (particularly when that government is a minority 
group in its own country) directing and planning the des 
tiny of a whole people and enforcing a pattern of life upon 
them for all their future years. These things pertain not 
to the state but to Almighty God, who is the God of history 
and to Whom this world belongs. L'homme propose. Dieu 
dispose is not a platitude but a profound truth. The whole 
sweep of human history bears witness to it. It is because 
I believe it that I am so entirely confident of the ultimate 
future of South Africa. 

The question which remains is the question of what will 
happen in the intervening years, and how much must we 
suffer from the inherent blasphemy which this racial policy 



expresses? Even were I not a Christian, I would take com 
fort and renew my hope in the obvious fact that the world 
itself is being driven either to a new and deep unity or to 
destruction. And the indications are at the moment that it 
is choosing the former alternative. If it chooses the latter, 
then the problems of South Africa will solve themselves 
with those of the rest of the world. But if in fact the 
hydrogen bomb is bringing people nearer to a recognition 
of the need for world government, as logically it must, then 
it seems to me fantastic to suppose that a policy of racial 
domination could be allowed to continue for very long any 
where upon earth. In other words, I believe that the di 
rection of world affairs, the impact of those affairs upon 
South Africa (an impact which is already being felt in 
countless ways), must have its effect upon the Union's 
fantastic internal policies. One is driven to believe that 
those who frame such policies are either totally cynical, 
and hope that they themselves will not live long enough 
to be involved in their destruction, or totally fanatical in 
their belief that they, the white South Africans, are the 
chosen people of God. Neither attitude will alter the course 
of history by a hair's breadth. 

But the question still remains: When? "How long, O 
Lord, how long? . . ." For in the life of a man ten years 
is a long time: particularly if it marks for him the period 
of his awakening and development from boyhood to man 

In a world of power, where it is possible for any govern 
ment to control the weapons of power, that government 
starts with a tremendous advantage. And where, as in 
South Africa, the tradition of liberty is so tender a plant, 
recognised in effect only by one section of the population, 
the government has a greater advantage yet. And where, 



as in South Africa, the great forces of fear and prejudice 
can be linked and released as one colossal weapon of prop 
aganda, then the government of the day, the government 
of the immediate and foreseeable future, is strong indeed. 
The weakness of a multi-racial opposition is like the weak 
ness of a "liberal" opposition: it has inevitably a mixture 
of different motives and draws support from people with 
different basic principles. 

When, therefore, a government ruthlessly uses its power 
and its propaganda not only to rally its own supporters 
but to terrify or to cajole its opponents, it is bound to meet 
with a large measure of success. In South Africa, the non- 
European opposition has been fearfully weakened by the 
fierce measures already taken to silence it. Most of its 
leaders are banned; all of its activities are open to police 
raids; its very existence as an opposition is made to appear 
as treason to the state. "The seduction of power/* as Alan 
Paton once described it, is itself an immensely powerful 
thing. It is operating in South Africa on every section of 
the people. For South Africa is today a police state. 

In view of this, the immediate future must be dark: 
darker, I believe, than it is at this moment of writing. There 
is no sign whatever that there is a weakening in the ap 
plication of the apartheid policy: just the reverse. There 
is a kind of buoyant confidence in government circles that, 
in spite of world opinion, in spite of "liberalists," clerics, 
Communists, and agitators, the African people are accept 
ing and will continue to accept the medicine handed out 
to them in larger and larger and more frequent doses. I 
would say that, superficially, there is some justification for 
this buoyancy. Opposition, both on the 'liberal" European 
front and the non-European, is presently at a low ebb, the 
lowest that ever I remember. "The seduction of power" is 


having its effect. But that this effect is temporary I am ab 
solutely convinced. 

What is the end to be? And how will it come about? I 
have tried to indicate that I do not believe it to be part 
of the Christian view of history to dictate the future of a 
people to their Creator. Neither do I believe it to be part 
of Christian prophecy to predict the circumstances of his 
torical change. Sufficient must it be for us to proclaim that 
God is not mocked and that if man persists in violating 
fundamental human rights, rights based upon the nature 
of man and the nature of God, he will have to take the 
consequences of his persistence. 

Sometimes I am asked: "Do you like (or knowor 
trust) the African?" My answer is always, "No." I do not 
like the African: but I love many Africans very dearly. I do 
not know or trust the African: but I know and trust hun 
dreds of Africans as my closest friends. 

You cannot love an abstraction: neither can you trust 
it; you can only know and love a person. It is the aim of 
the government of South Africa to make it impossible for 
a white South African to know and to love a black South 
African. In my opinion the logic of present policy is to 
make it a crime for any real relationship to exist between 
the two races in this land; for any relationship that is 
based on personality. That we have not yet reached that 
situation is simply accidental. Given the occasion (let us 
say a riot in a mixed area in which a European is killed ) , 
there would be no hesitation in enforcing such a prohibi 
tion. But it is inherent in the situation now, and it is daily 
becoming more evident. Even the lethargy of European 
church people is sometimes slightly disturbed at the con 
stant attacks now being launched against white mission 
aries working in locations. 



In opposing the policies of the present government, 
therefore, I am not prepared to concede that any momen 
tary good which might conceivably emerge from them is 
good. Nor am I prepared to concede that the motives 
which inspire such policies have any quality of goodness 
about them. For both the acts and the motives are inspired 
by a desire which is itself fundamentally evil and basically 
un-Christian: the desire to dominate in order to preserve a 
position of racial superiority and, in that process of domi 
nation, to destroy personal relationships, the foundation of 
love itself. That is anti-Christ. 

I am back in Sophiatown. The grey smoke from a thou 
sand braziers hangs over the streets, makes the square 
tower of the church appear ancient as if upon some Um- 
brian hill, wraps the whole place in a soft and golden eve 
ning shadow. And in those rooms and yards and playing or 
talking in those streets are the children whose names I 
know and whose characters I know too. And coming home 
from work are John and Elias and Michael, who first 
greeted me twelve years ago and who are part of my fam 
ily in Christ. Tomorrow I shall take the Blessed Sacra 
ment to old Piet, crippled and bedridden with arthritis, 
and afterwards we will talk about his family problems. 
And later in the day I shall have a cup of tea with old 
Ma Malunga and see if I can coax her into that deep and 
fascinating chuckle that I love to hear. And probably in 
the evening Harry will drop in to tell me how things are 
going at his school and what sort of Matric. results he is 
likely to have. . . . And my mail will certainly include at 
least one letter from some friend of mine beginning: 
"Dearest Father . . " and ending "Your loving child . . ." 

Do you think that I can give up fighting or rest con 
tentedly in my priestly life when this is what I am trying 



to protect from plunder: this most precious human treas 
ure, the opportunity of love itself? If I am mistaken, as well 
I may be, in the methods I have used, then I trust in the 
mercy of God for my forgiveness. For He, too, is a Person. 
And it is His Person that I have found in Africa, in the 
poverty of her homes, in the beauty and splendour of her 
children, in the patience and courtesy of her people. But 
above all I have found Him where every Christian should 
expect to find Him: in the darkness, in the fear, in the 
blinding weariness of Calvary. 
And Calvary is but one step from the Empty Tomb. 



WHILST I BELIEVE profoundly in the prophetic office of the 
Church, I do not believe at all in political prediction. 
Whilst I would defend in any company the right of the 
Church to take part in the political life of the country, I 
would deny as categorically its right to align itself with 
any one party. 

Always, at the end of a conversation on racial affairs, the 
question is asked: "And what of the future? What is likely 
to happen? What do you think is the solution?" 

Of the ultimate future I am in no doubt at all. It is in 
conceivable to me that two and a half million whites, di 
vided amongst themselves and with no justifiable claim to 
moral leadership, can hope to mould the continent of Af 
rica to their pattern. Over two hundred million blacks, in 
creasingly conscious of their common past and of their 
exciting present, are certainly not going to accept leader 
ship on their continent from the heirs of Paul Kruger. 
White South Africa will be fortunate if, fifty years from 
now, it is still a tolerated minority group, allowed to re 
main where it has been for centuries. I cannot see how a 
world which is so predominantly non-white and which is 
progressively diminishing in size (and is therefore more 
conscious than ever of its need for unity) can look patiently 
upon a handful of its citizens so determined to live in the 
past, so defiant of the trend of world opinion. Perhaps the 



Bandung Afro-Asian Conference was the first indication 
of a shift in the balance of power. At least it should have 
been a warning to those like Mr. Strijdom, who are so anx 
ious to maintain "white" civilisation on the sub-continent, 
that they have neighbours. 

But of the immediate future I am in doubt. It would 
seem probable that any modern government, however un 
representative of the masses it may be, can retain control 
of a country if it has the weapons and the masses have 
not. Particularly is this true in South Africa where, if there 
were a revolt on the part of the Africans, the two white 
"blocs" would forget their differences at once and unite to 
defend themselves and their possessions. 

Moreover, as I have tried to indicate in this book, re 
sistance to oppression and injustice is at a very low ebb 
in the Union of South Africa today. There is the scent of 
defeatism in the air. The official opposition is, in the words 
of the Prime Minister, like a banana: without backbone 
and slightly crooked. It is also without any effective leader 
ship. The 'liberalists," as the Nationalist leaders like to call 
them, are perhaps stronger and more united than they have 
been for many a long day. But they are not united enough, 
and certainly they are not strong enough numerically to 
make any impression on the government. 

The non-European people are still waiting for a leader. 
And that is perhaps a most crucial point. For distress and 
defeat can only be turned into victory or perhaps one 
should say, have in history only been turned into victory 
by the emergence of one who is great enough and wise 
enough to unite in a determination which had been be 
yond their strength. Equally, it is the dark days which 
tend to produce such leaders. So there is hope. 

I do not think that South Africa has yet reached its 



nadir. I believe that the kind of crazy nationalism which 
will destroy a constitution does not generally stop at de 
stroying a constitution. And I am sure that the irrational 
racialism of white South Africa will not stop halfway in 
its apartheid madness. 

But how the end will come, the end that is also a be 
ginning, I would not know. I am not ashamed of being 
unable to prophesy such things, for I do not believe that 
to be the function of Christian prophecy. 

It is for the Church to proclaim fearlessly, in season and 
out of season, the truth of the Gospel; and to recognise 
that that truth is revolutionary and that it is a most power 
ful solvent of traditional social ideas: amongst them the 
idea that miscegenation, the mixed marriage, is wrong; i.e., 
contrary to the law of God. One has only to place side by 
side the two issues, mixed marriage or injustice, and to ask 
which of the two is morally more reprehensible to see the 
fantastic futility of the question, "Would you like your sis 
ter to marry, etc." The way of apartheid, or white suprem 
acy, is and must always be the way of injustice: for it 
assumes that a difference in pigmentation is a reason for 
exercising power. But, more than that, the way of apartheid 
is a denial of the very foundation of the Gospel itself. It 
is a return to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"; 
a forsaking of the question, "And who is my neighbour?" 
It is a denial of charity, and therefore a denial of God 
Himself. Nothing will persuade me otherwise. Least of all 
the "intelligent" rationalisation of the apartheid policy 
which so comfortingly assumes that, once black and white 
are divided, they will live happily together for ever after. 

And I know the solution. I know it from experience: an 
experience which 99.9 per cent of my fellow South Africans 
have never had and would not care to have. 



It lies in the simple recognition that all men are made 
in "the image and likeness of God"; that in consequence 
each person is of infinite and eternal value; that the state 
exists to protect the person but is in itself always of inferior 
value to the person. 

And all these truths white South Africa implicitly or ex 
plicitly denies. Therefore, no social order can emerge in 
which the problems of South Africa have a chance of solu 

Only we, who in our ordinary daily life accept and at 
least try to act upon these truths, know how easy is the 

"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, 
the things which belong unto thy peacel But now they are 
hid from thine eyes." 

"The things which belong unto thy peace. . " 

But South Africa, like Jerusalem, is blind. 




IN THE last year of his government's term of office, General 
Smuts received the report of the Fagan Commission on Native 
Laws. Its terms of reference included "The operation of the 
laws in force in the Union relating to Natives in our near urban 
areas. . . . The operation of the Native Pass Laws, and the 
employment in mines and other industries of migrating labour; 
its economic and social effects upon the lives of the people 
concerned; and the future policy to be followed in regard 
thereto. . . " Although Mr. Justice Fagan could say in July 
1948: "One of the main objections to the . . . report is that 
those who have criticised it most bitterly have not read it. That 
means 99.9 per cent of the European population in South Af 
rica," there can be no doubt that it had an immense significance 
in many different ways. It is for that reason that I refer to it 

In the first place, the fact of the Fagan Commission is a clear 
indication of two things namely, the almost unbelievably late 
hour at which Smuts awoke to the need for a constructive na 
tive policy himself; and the complete failure of his party and 
of the mass of white South Africans to accept the lead given. 
That the Nationalist Party had already assumed power when 
the commission's report became available does not really alter 
the fact that in any case it had come too late to be effective 
in moulding public opinion. It was a commission which based 
all its findings on three aspects of the situation in South Africa: 


1. That the idea of total segregation is completely impracti 

2. That the rural and urban movement is a natural economic 
phenomenon engendered by necessity one which pos 
sibly can be regulated but cannot be reversed. 

3. That the Native population in the urban areas consists 
not only of Native migrant workers, but also of a settled 
permanent Native population. (Fagan Report Digest, 

Writing today, it is easy to see why such a report was not 
only unacceptable but was also unread. The past six years have 
seen a policy based on the principles of apartheid, at first 
sceptically considered and dismissed as an electioneering de 
vice; then argued and debated at every level and in every con 
ceivable setting; finally and the Provincial Elections of 1954 
have proved this accepted by the vast majority of white South 
Africans. It has been my object to try to show how this has 
come about, though indeed it can be stated in a very few words 
and summarised as follows: It is not apartheid which has pro 
vided the Nationalist government with its immense and grow 
ing dominance over all other European groups and parties in 
this country. It is not the thirst for such a negative state of 
affairs as "separation" in itself that has so stirred enthusiasm 
and multiplied votes. It is something much deeper and much 
more appealing. In a word, it is ''white supremacy, now and 
always'" Everything, every speech, every policy, every act im 
plementing policy in the last resort must be measured by this 
yardstick. Apartheid itself must be secondary always to the 
simple issue of "white-man boss/' Native laws, native housing, 
native socio-economic conditions, native education, even native 
religion all these things (and, of course, in South Africa "Na 
tive Affairs" are always an abstract, never have any relation to 
living persons) must subserve this one great end. 

It is not white self-preservation that is considered a sufficient 
motive force today; it is white supremacy 9 that and nothing 


less. And as these past seven years have unfolded, so ever more 
openly and, it must be admitted, ever more efficiently, the 
government has revealed its plan and its purpose. 

Today the Fagan Commission Report reads like a document 
from another world, so contemptuously are its promises dis 
missed, so fantastic do its findings sound "A settled, perma 
nent Native population. . . ." How could such a thing be 
contemplated? The native is and must always be in the town 
to serve his European master: that is his purpose and function: 
that is what God created him for. If he cannot accept the posi 
tion, let him return to the Reserves where he truly belongs and 
where he can develop along his own lines. ""What are those 
lines?" you say. It is beside the point. The only thing that mat 
ters is that he should not, in any circumstances, feel himself 
part of a wider (and whiter) culture and civilisation. 

So the Fagan Report, stillborn, is a symbol of South Africa's 
besetting sin "Tomorrow is another day." And we who, when 
it was first published, regarded it as a very small step in a 
doubtfully liberal direction regard it now as a land of false 
dawn for ever lost in the night of Nationalist arrogance and 
pride that has engulfed us all.